Neural Correlates of Meaning-Making

In humanities research related to psychology there tends to be a tendency to look for answer from neurological research. Things like consciousness, language and learning are intimately connected to how the brain works. And understanding the neural underpinnings of our psychological processes tends to give as a better understanding how those processes work.

This is very much related to my research, since meaning-making is something that necessarily involves cognitive processes. Should I then be looking at brain imaging data? Trying to pinpoint the areas active in different meaning-making situations?

There are several problems with this idea.

First, there usually isn’t data available on anything that involves complex processing, like meaning-making. Of course, one of the solutions would be simply to wait for that information to be available before trying to do research to is related to it. But it seems like a waste of time to wait for something that may not be available anytime soon.

However, there is a problem even more fundamental to this issue.

In order to find the neural correlate for something, you need to be looking for the right thing. If you can’t define the higher order process you are looking for, how can you know you are looking for the right thing? That is one of the reasons why we need to research these issues even before there is neurological data available. That neurological research will be informed by earlier research into the topic and be more likely to be looking for the right things.

One of the ways that can be done is by looking at behavioural data in players (why does certain kind of processing take longer than other and what would that tell us about the processes themselves?). In order to do that we need a solid framework of research, so that research is looking at right things. In summary: neurological data is great for confirming or rebuking hypotheses, but not enough for coming up with the hypotheses in the first place.