On the primacy of behavioral research for understanding the brain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Questions in neuroscience can be divided roughly into two types: What does the brain do, and how does it do it? I argue that in answering the first question-the central one for cognitive science-behavior is often more revealing than are neuroscientific measurements. Moreover, even in answering “how” questions about neural mechanisms, a well-crafted behavioral paradigm can often offer deeper insight and stronger constraints on computational and mechanistic models than do many highly challenging (and very expensive) neural studies. Based on these two arguments, I conclude that behavioral, not neuroscientific, research is essential for understanding both the mind and the brain, contrary to the opinion of many funding bodies, academic decision makers and scientific journals, who erroneously place neural data on a pedestal and consider behavior to be subsidiary.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationCurrent Controversies in Philosophy of Cognitive Science
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781000063080
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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