I managed to catch the last episode of Matthew Taylor’s BBC Radio 4 series Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Society today. While covering a range of neuro-paternalistic themes, one particular issue stood out for me. Focusing on the links between neuroscience and behaviour change policies, this final episode explored the emergence of Mindfulness Training. Mindfulness approaches combine Buddhist practices with psychological insights into human behaviour in order to enable people to better understand the nature of their everyday experiences and emotional lives. It was suggested that Mindfulness Training could enable people to become more aware of the limitations of their own conscious capacities and to live more neurologically adept lives.
On the other side of the neurological battlefield are the techniques associated with the Nudge. In this particular episode, the so neurological skeptic Raymond Tallis suggested that there is a real danger that such behaviour changing techniques could see human subjects becoming the “play-things of our evolved Brains.”
It appears that a quiet neurological war may be underway in the UK (and indeed elsewhere). While the field of conflict clearly cannot be reduced to the garrisons of Mindfulness and Nudge, remembering that the political and social implications of current developments in that behavioural sciences are open to contestation is a useful starting point for public debate on the subject.