Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The pseudo-neuroscience of active Verbs

We Verbs are by nature an active bunch — you should see the volleyball game at the family reunion — but bad science journalism can overstate even our value. For example, see this from Mark Liberman on Language Log. The conclusion is very quotable:
Reading about science in the popular press … can be depressing, if you're laboring under the misapprehension that the goal is to understand and evaluate research, and to explain things to the public in a clear and interesting way. From this perspective, what you usually see is a process of progressive misunderstanding, distortion and exaggeration -- and you might conclude that science journalists are too lazy to read the original research reports, or too stupid to understand them, or too cynical and manipulative to care whether their stories bear any particular relationship to the truth.

But this misses the point, which is not provision of information, but rather moral uplift and reinforcement of cultural norms.
Sad but true. Happily, the image is from a source that shows directly how verbs increase physical activity.

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