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Neuro-Societies? Attitudes and Perceptions in a German Public towards the Neurosciences

By Anna-Lena Lumma and Saskia K. Nagel


Findings from the neurosciences are increasingly discussed publicly. In neuroethical debates it is often assumed that the general public perceives neuroscientific topics as highly relevant and that it is influenced by the neuroscientific narratives that pervade the public sphere. However, studies on the actual uptake of neuroscientific research particularly with a focus on neuroplasticity in the wider public are scarce. Here, we investigate how a wider public perceives the neurosciences with an explorative survey in order to assess how the wider public’s everyday life is influenced by the neurosciences. The questionnaire specifically targets the public’s attitudes about the alterability of the brain. The explorative survey included 125 closed-ended and open-ended questions and was completed by participants from the German population. The findings showed that participants were very interested in the brain and its functions related to health, aging and learning, and thought about the influence of the neurosciences on topics relevant to their own life and society. The majority of participants did not know the concept of neuroplasticity, but nevertheless they believed that the brain can be altered. This study provides first insights into how neuroscientific information is perceived in the public and how the neurosciences impact people’s everyday life

Year: 2016
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