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Measuring what makes behavior possible


Hagoort,  Peter
Language Production Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Other Research, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
FC Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging , External Organizations;

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Hagoort, P. (2000). Measuring what makes behavior possible. Talk presented at 3rd International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioral Research [Measuring Behavior 2000]. Nijmegen, The Netherlands. 2000-08-15 - 2000-08-18.

"It is inaccurate - worse, it is misleading - to call psychology the study of behavior. It is the study of the underlying processes, just as chemistry is the study of the atom rather than pH values, spectroscopes, and test tubes." (D.O. Hebb, 1980) The purpose of measuring behavior in psychology is to make inferences about the cognitive architectures of complex human skills such as perception, memory, language, action, etc. However, the recent decade has seen an enormous development in possibilities to measure and visualize the brain activity that underlies behavior. In this way the neural architectures underlying cognitive skills can be investigated more directly than ever before. This provides an alternative route to making inferences about cognitive architectures. Therefore, next to measuring behavior, measuring the brain has become an important research tool in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. In my lecture I will give an overview about the major brain imaging methods (EEG, MEG, PET, fMRI), their strengths and weaknesses. I will show what they reveal about complex cognitive skills. I will also discuss the advantages of measuring brain activity in the absence of concomitant measurements of behavior, especially in patients with brain damage. This presentation is an introduction to the more in-depth presentations of the other speakers in the symposium "Measuring the brain in action".