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Textbook distortion of effect of brain injuries: Phineas Gage

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On the iconic lecture room psychopath, fFrom the British Psychological Society Research Digest:

So the textbooks mostly won’t tell you about Gage’s rehabilitation, or provide you with the latest evidence on his injuries. Instead, you might hear how hear never worked again and became a vagrant, or that he became a circus freak for the rest of his life, showing off the holes in his head. “The most egregious error,” says Griggs, “seems to be that Gage survived for 20 years with the tamping iron embedded in his head!”.

Does any of this matter? Griggs argues strongly that it does. There are over one and half million students enrolled in introductory psychology courses in the US alone, and most of them are introduced to the subject via textbooks. We know from past work that psychology textbook coverage of other key cases and studies is also often distorted and inaccurate. Now we learn that psychology’s most famous case study is also misrepresented, potentially giving a misleading, overly simplistic impression about the effects of Gage’s brain damage. “It is important to the psychological teaching community to identify inaccuracies in our textbooks so that they can be corrected, and we as textbook authors and teachers do not continue to ‘give away’ false information about our discipline,” Griggs concludes.

This may be one of those situations where a Society attempts to correct the record long after their desired result—millions misinformed in favour of metaphysical naturalism—is achieved beyond hope of recall.

The record is often “corrected” by organizations who successfully perpetrated the myth to spare scandal, now that the damage is done.

Think that’s too cynical? Darwinian Ernst Haeckel’s famous embryo drawings were perpetrated for over a century as one of the most famous fakes in biology.

People who talked about it often raised suspicion, typically as “creationists.” Of course. Because the creationists were the only ones to whom it mattered that the series was a fraud and a lie.

Presumably, the many embryologists who knew the drawings were inaccurate just snickered because they were good for driving home a propaganda point: Darwinism Is True.
And their students didn’t care if they could get a good job perpetuating Darwinism Is True.

Sometimes I think Peter Thiel of PayPal, along with my drop-out-of-college-now friends, is right. By the time one cuts through all the BS, one’s time and money might have been better used elsewhere.

See also:

Are two out of three people really secret torturers? The famous “obedience” experiments by Stanley Milgram: what did they really show?

Back to school briefing: Seven myths of social psychology (Many lecture room icons from decades past are looking tarnished now.)

What isn’t science fiction about the human mind?

and

Griggs, R. (2015). Coverage of the Phineas Gage Story in Introductory Psychology Textbooks: Was Gage No Longer Gage? Teaching of Psychology, 42 (3), 195-202 DOI: 10.1177/0098628315587614

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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

One Reply to “Textbook distortion of effect of brain injuries: Phineas Gage

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Phineas Gage is mentioned at the 7:15 mark of the following video

    The Case for the Soul – InspiringPhilosophy – (4:03 minute mark, Brain Plasticity including Schwartz’s work) – Oct. 2014 – video
    The Mind is able to modify the brain (brain plasticity). Moreover, Idealism explains all anomalous evidence of personality changes due to brain injury, whereas physicalism cannot explain mind.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBsI_ay8K70

    The following video deals with the objections of atheists to the first video

    The Case for the Soul: Refuting Physicalist Objections – video
    Computers vs. Qualia, Libet and ‘Free won’t’, Split Brain (unified attention of brain despite split hemispheres, visual and motion information is shared between the two hemispheres despite the hemispheres being split),
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB5TNrtu9Pk

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