Today’s educational marketplace is full of products and theories and methodologies that claim to be “brain based”. This overused term is much like “Green” in the environmental movement. It can mean almost anything. Consumers have been taught to believe that if we say something is brain based, then it works in harmony with the brain and therefore produces better results than something that is not brain based. (Don’t we use the brain in everything we do?)
Studies by MCCabe and Castel (2008) and Weisberg, Keil et al (2008) show that an image of a brain or the mention of irrelevant neuroscientific jargon boosts sales and can sway reader judgement. The old… “if I can’t understand it, it must be true” type of consumer thinking.
Sylvan and Christodoulou (2010) suggest a new system of categorizing this nebulous “Brain Based” phenomemon to provide clarity and meaningfulness.
Brain Supported: Products that have used neuroimaging (PET scans etc) to demonstrate the impact of the product or method on brain structure or functions along with behavioral improvement.
Brain Derived: Products or methods that are taken from neuroscience theories. Start with the theory and create the product based on that specific theory.
Brain Driven: Products that manipulate brain activity to change behavior. An example is biofeedback where a machine monitoring brain waves gives you visual feedback on your mental state in order to improve performance.
Brain Inspired: Products or methods directly inspired by general brain principles, which in truth are most often more traditional behavioral or cognitive science. This is something like using the principle that a small anxiety increses attention and performance, but a lot of anxiety degrades performance.
In short – using a more authentic classification system like this could help consumers discern what, if any, real roots the product or method has in current neuroscience.