The New York Times had done it again. You would have thought that they had learned their lesson after publishing a rather poorly designed study using fMRI to wax poetic on the various candidates in the 2008 presidential election on the op-ed page; a subsequent letter to the editor signed by 17 experts in brain imaging not only debunked the findings, but added that “the results reported in the article were apparently not peer-reviewed, nor was sufficient detail provided to evaluate the conclusions.” Blog posts galore (here and here and here) and online magazines (here and here) heaped on the scorn, with more than one commentator noting that the op-ed piece seemed more like a thinly veiled advertisement for the private company involved than proper investigation.
But did they learn? Apparently not.
In today’s New York Times, Martin Lindstrom has a high-profile op-ed piece in which he concludes that the relationship between individuals and their iPhones is more like love than it is like addiction. The conclusion may or may not be true, but the methods he uses to arrive at that conclusion – fMRI experiments with 8 men and 8 women, conducted by a neuromarketing firm – are no more robust or thoughtfully examined than the above-cited Iacobini et al. flim-flam that the New York Times previously published on politics. Mr. Lindstrom, who touts himself as both consumer advocate and branding guru but appears to have no academic credentials to warrant his interpretations of fMRI experiments.
Is nobody home at the New York Times?
Update: Tal Yarkoni has a detailed and thoughtful critique up about the Lindstrom article