Ok, so this might be more Neuroscience than Psychology but it still demonstrates the disparity between seemingly scientific articles in the popular press, in the case the New York Times, and the actual science behind the reporting.
The article describes the results of fluctuating Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans of people viewing images of the iPhone. The meat of the piece is found in the following quote
“Earlier this year, I carried out an fMRI experiment to find out whether iPhones were really, truly addictive, no less so than alcohol, cocaine, shopping or video games. In conjunction with the San Diego-based firm MindSign Neuromarketing, I enlisted eight men and eight women between the ages of 18 and 25. Our 16 subjects were exposed separately to audio and to video of a ringing and vibrating iPhone.
In each instance, the results showed activation in both the audio and visual cortices of the subjects’ brains. In other words, when they were exposed to the video, our subjects’ brains didn’t just see the vibrating iPhone, they “heard” it, too; and when they were exposed to the audio, they also “saw” it. This powerful cross-sensory phenomenon is known as synesthesia.
But most striking of all was the flurry of activation in the insular cortex of the brain, which is associated with feelings of love and compassion. The subjects’ brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.
In short, the subjects didn’t demonstrate the classic brain-based signs of addiction. Instead, they loved their iPhones. “
There are a few problems with the actual science of the article.
Firstly there is no agreed biomarker using fMRI for addiction of any sort.
Secondly, the research the author quotes has not been published in any academic journal or peer reviewed.
Thirdly, the area of the brain referred to (insular cortex) is not “particularly with feelings of love and compassion”.
In fact, accrding to Tal Yarkoni, Ph.D. Post-doctoral fellow. Department of Psychology and
Neuroscience University of Colorado at Boulder, “I’d be pretty surprised, actually, if you could present any picture or sound to participants in an fMRI scanner and not elicit robust insula activity”.
Yarkoni writes and excellent forensic takedown of the article on his own blog
So, Popular Press 0 – Hard Science 1