Neuroimaging and inferential distance

Neuroethics 1 (1):19-30 (2008)
Abstract
Brain images are used both as scientific evidence and to illustrate the results of neuroimaging experiments. These images are apt to be viewed as photographs of brain activity, and in so viewing them people are prone to assume that they share the evidential characteristics of photographs. Photographs are epistemically compelling, and have a number of characteristics that underlie what I call their inferential proximity. Here I explore the aptness of the photography analogy, and argue that although neuroimaging does bear important similarities to photography, the details of the generation and analysis of neuroimages significantly complicate the relation of the image to the data. Neuroimages are not inferentially proximate, but their seeming so increases the potential for misinterpretation. This suggests caution in appealing to such images in the public domain.
Keywords Functional magnetic resonance imaging  Neuroimaging  Inferential distance
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