1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · Events

Prof Barry Barnes 'How Scanning Our Brains Reveals The Truth: the Problem of the Next-but-One Case'

Seminar   26.01.2010






Prof Barry Barnes, Co-Director, Egenis

Organised by



University of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJRoom no: GF7, Byrne House

Event details

Time: 3:30 - 5:00 PM


The project of trying to understand human mental activity by study of the networks of nerves that constitute brains has been pursued with variable degrees of enthusiasm ever since the speed of nervous transmission was first measured a century and a half ago. The project was controversial, of course, for a variety of reasons, and its results, which included some fascinating and suggestive findings, didn’t make it any less so, not least because they tended to suggest that conscious awareness of actions and decisions trailed along after the actions and ‘decisions’ themselves and lacked any clear role or function. In the latest manifestations of this kind of study brain scanners and elaborate computer analysis of brain activity is said to be predictive of decisions in advance of awareness by the subject that decisions have been made, - 7 to 10 seconds in advance according to some claims.

In this talk I look at this work from the perspective of the social sciences, asking both whether a sociological perspective has any light to throw on the work and what social scientists might themselves learn from it. Among the more speculative suggestions prompted by this last question is that sociological-finitist of theories rule following and concept application fit nicely with some of the current brain-imaging studies, or at least that they do after a certain amount of expedient re-interpretation of both.

I take it as given that as brain and genome are currently the two major current foci for research tending to the reification of human nature a discussion of the first will be salient for anyone interested in the second.

Further details