I’m a bit late to the neuroword party with this one, but here goes:
Neuroessentialism – the belief in, or tactic of, invoking evidence, or merely terms, from neuroscience to justify claims at the psychological level. See also neuromysticism, neurobollocks.
There’s a mild example of this in George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of An Elephant which is an otherwise excellent book:
“One of the fundamental findings of cognitive science is that people think in terms of frames and metaphors – conceptual structures like those we have been describing. The frames are in the synapses of our brains, physically present in the form of neural circuitry. When the facts don’t fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored.”
(p73, which you can also view here)
He’s talking about frames (psychology). He’s advancing a claim that frame-incompatible facts get rejected (psychology). What do the statements ‘The frames are in the synapses of our brains, physically present in the form of neural circuitry’ add to the argument? Nothing. They do not provide any evidence nor do they even provide any information – everything psychological is represented somehow in the brain, and knowing that conceptual frames exist in neural circuits doesn’t help us figure out anything about their properties. The statements are contentless.
There’s no need to pick on Lakoff particularly, it is just what I’m reading today. Far more offensive examples of neuroessentialism abound (Brain Gym springs to mind). This is in part because neuroscience is a technical and sexily complicated discipline, and in part because of the mistaken belief that evidence at a lower level of description somehow has explanatory precedence over that at a higher level of description (cf physics envy). Many claims about human psychology are adequately and entirely addressed at the level of behaviour with no need to invoke neuroscientific evidence. Indeed, for many psychological claims neuroscience can add little or nothing to our assessment of their truth. Taking for example this claim that frame-incompatible facts get rejected, knowing that frames are embedded in brain tells us nothing, but even knowing how frames are embedded in the brain may not be as useful as it first appears. Whatever neuroscientific facts we discovered about frames, the final judgement of the truth of this claim would rely on answers to questions such as is it true that frame-incompatible facts tend to get rejected? In what range of circumstances is this true and how can it be affected? The last word would be behavioural evidence, regardless of what information was provided by neuroscience.