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Recent developments in neuroscience and artificial intelligence have allowed machines to decode mental processes with growing accuracy. Neuroethicists have speculated that perfecting these technologies may result in reactions ranging from an invasion of privacy to an increase in self-understanding. Yet, evaluating these predictions is difficult given that people are poor at forecasting their reactions. To address this, we developed a paradigm using elements of performance magic to emulate future neurotechnologies. We led 59 participants to believe that a (sham) neurotechnological machine could infer their preferences, detect their errors, and reveal their deep-seated attitudes. The machine gave participants randomly assigned positive or negative feedback about their brain’s supposed attitudes towards charity. Around 80% of participants in both groups provided rationalisations for this feedback, which shifted their attitudes in the manipulated direction but did not influence donation behaviour. Our paradigm reveals how people may respond to prospective neurotechnologies, which may inform neuroethical frameworks.


This article was originally published in Consciousness and Cognition, volume 107, in 2023.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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