Cognitive neuroscience from a behavioral perspective: A critique of chasing ghosts with geiger counters

Behav Anal. Fall 2002;25(2):161-73. doi: 10.1007/BF03392055.


Cognitive neuroscience is a growing new discipline concerned with relating complex behavior to neuroanatomy. Relatively new advances in the imaging of brain function, such as positron emission tomography (PET), have generated hundreds of studies that have demonstrated a number of interesting but also potentially problematic brain-behavior relations. For example, cognitive neuroscientists largely favor interpretations of their data that rely on unobserved hypothetical mechanisms. Their reports often contain phraseology such as central executive, willed action, and mental imagery. As B. F. Skinner argued for decades, cognitive constructs of neurological data may yield nothing more than a conceptual nervous system.