Click for next page ( 61

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement

Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 60
5 Applications and Ethical Considerations Attempts to use the technologies described in this report as well as others for applied purposes raise a number of ethical issues. Most prominent In the public media are concerns about another technology, the use of lie detectors, which is also based on the as- sessment of physiological processes. Questions mclude how accurate these devices are and whether they should be used for making ad- munistrative decisions. Although the technologies discussed in this report have not received a comparable amount of public attention, their use raises the same issues of accuracy and ethics. With regard to accuracy, In this chapter we discuss the nature of the data, the "language of the brain, and psychological meaning. With regard to ethics, we discuss the issues of invasion of privacy and the dangers of commercialization. Of primary interest to the Army are potential applications of the technologies for purposes of selection and traming. We know of no attempts to date to use any of the techniques discussed in this report for these purposes. Although it is true that considerable progress has been made in laboratory and field research, there are still a number of problems to be resolved, as discussed earlier. Moreover, the necessary development and implementation work has not been done. Until the problems are resolved and progress is made in development, it would be premature to use these technologies for operational purposes. Nevertheless, the fact that the technologies are in the public domain and have been used in clinical contexts makes it tempting to consider adopting them for use in other applied settings. And the temptation 60

OCR for page 60
APPLICATIONS AND ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS 61 increases as rapid advances in engineering place new, more advanced tools in the marketplace, further facilitating their use as quick fixes to difficult problems. We address these issues below. TO C,IT~O 11" ~C!~1U+~= 11= art To ~ ~ ~ 1~OU~JO `~Jl~U - l B~= ~~BA Consider the issues raised by the data on such ERP components as the P300. There are any number of applications for such a proce- dure. However, if one is offered a box in which a pointer is driven to the right or to the left by the magnitude of the P300, which varies, in turn, as a function of some mental process, two classes of questions arise. First, there is the question of utility. Does the technique re- aBy work? To date there has not been an ecologically valid test of the P30~based procedures, with the exception of some of the more clinical applications. We know the procedures work weD In complex laboratory arrangements, yet there has never been support for thor- ough experimentation in normative situations. This issue is, to a large extent, open. Second, there is the issue of privacy. What ~ the degree to which monitoring impinges on individual rights? Does it go beyond cur- rently accepted interpretation of the rules? There Is a popular notion that it will be possible to achieve the technical feat of making audi- ble by mechanical means those thoughts that constitute our internal speech. The metaphor driving the worry is that of eavesdropping. Eavesdropping on the mind is unlikely. It would only be possible if the signals we can record externally carry within them the richness and the variety available in mental life. One can fantasize, of course, that new technologies will increase the range of the monitoring. In- deed, given the trends in increased computing power and reduced size and cost, super minicomputers implemented on biological prin- ciples might have the power and the savvy to interpret the signals to a depth that matches the profundity of the task. However, even in that case psychophysiological eavesdropping would not be possible. To some extent, the constraints that could not be eliminated stem from the fact that there is too much noise to develop a useful eavesdropping technique. There are far too many processes all work- ing in parallel and furiously interacting with each other for there to be a possibility that an external manifestation of any of these pro- cesses will "talks to a computer in the same language it "talks to its counterparts in the system.

OCR for page 60
62 BRAIN AND COGNITION: SOME NEW TECHNOLOGIES The matter of the language of the brain is crucial here. The implementation of thought processes is ultunately a matter of neu- rons communicating with other neurons. Indeed, it is most likely a matter of millions of neurons talking to millions of other neurons for any thought to occur. These neurons converse with each other, of course, by whatever language is used for such communication. There is no consensus as to the nature of the language. It is clear that neurons affect other neurons by secreting tiny doses of chemicals (the neurotransm~tters). These secretions are the consequence of the conduction of neuronal unpuises across synapses and the integrative activities of the dendritic membranes. Cognitive psychophysiologists benefit from the fact that, when occurring in the mass and in a highly synchronous manner, these interneuronal transactions manifest themselves on the scalp in the form of large integrated fields of potentials recorded as the EEG. If labeled radioactively, they may manifest themselves to an imaging device. However, this activity, while valuable as an index for the time course and level of neuronal action, Is unlikely to serve as a source of information on the specific nature of the vast exchanges in the neu- ron's own language that have given rise to these psychophysiological signals. MONITORING PARADIGMS AND CONSTRAINTS One can assume that psychophysiological signals will be useful only if what is being monitored is defined scientifically. We do not, and will not, eavesdrop on the mind. Rather, we are observing the consequences of neural action and, by judicious construction of the situation, we may be able to pose questions that the psychophysiolog- ical signals may answer. Describing psychophysiological monitoring as a process of seeking answers to specific questions is very important because it underlines the principal condition for the success of such monitoring. The value of the answer will depend on the sagacity with which the question has been put. In other words, the key to the usefulness of these approaches is the ability to pose useful questions rather than the procurement of yet another measuring instrument. Proper application of psychophysiological monitoring requires that one realize that what is being monitored is the activity of bodily systems. These systems are driven for physiological reasons by the demancls on the system. These bodily organs serve more than

OCR for page 60
APPLICATIONS AND ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS 63 one function and therefore their activity cannot be presumed to be uniquely related to any psychological construct. The signals we record make sense, therefore, only in terms of the situation. There is no deception wave a wave that no matter when and under what circumstances it has been recorded indicates that a person has lied. There is not even a wave that indicates unequivocally that any emotion has occurred. Rather, the change in the physical signal indicates the activation of a certain processor or processors. If, and only if, this Is uniquely interpretable within the context of the recording is it possible to make psychological inferences from the data. Thus, the degree to which psychophysiological signals can have psychological meaning depends on the degree to which the system is set to be driven in a unique fashion by the psychological vari- ables. For example, the workload assessment techniques employing the P300 depend on the establishment of a very sensitive relationship between the conditions of measurement and the subject's understand- ing of the situational demands. In other words, active participation of the subject is a condition for the success of psychophysiological monitoring. It is unlikely that it would be possible to apply a probe that wiD intrude on the subject without, at some leYel, the sum ject's accepting the structuring of the situation that constitutes the question addressed to the system. The above remarks should not be construed as casting doubt on the usefulness of psychophysiological monitoring. The increasing depth to which these signals are understood and the increasing so- phLstication of cognitive models when coupled with the spectacular developments in miniaturization, sensor technology, and data analy- sis open a very broad scope for such monitoring. However, this will be accomplished only within the constraints of good methodology. Furthermore, whatever monitoring can be done will be constrained by the nature of the biological and psychological systems involved. One must steer clear of extravagant claims and avoid the unnecessary fears that these might invoke. DANGERS OF COMME:RCIA[IZATION It must be emphasized that the remarks made in the previous section pertain to the scientifically valid use of the techniques. We must also point out that the limits that science and nature impose on feasibility do not always serve as constraints on the selling of

OCR for page 60
64 BRAIN AND COGNITION: SOME NEW TECHNOLOGIES technological marvels. Reason and proper scientific analysis suggest that eavesdropping on the mind is unlikely. Unfortunately, this does not imply that someone with a gadget and a good marketing technology cannot attempt to persuade the public, as individuals and through their government, that some technical marvel has been achieved. From snake oil to water divining to more contemporary panaceas, those who peddle worthless solutions to serious problems have often been able to induce belief in the efficacy of some technique despite the caveats of science. CONCLUSION This chapter has addressed the msue of the scientific feasibility and validity of monitoring individuab by certain psychophysiological techniques. The conclusions reached should contribute to a more cautious approach taken by policy makers in government and indus- try. There is of course no guarantee that these cautions will in fact be heeded. Policy makers are often under pressure to adopt techniques that address specific problems that are not easily resolved. They may be tempted by the availability of a variety of easy-to-use techniques that purport to deal with those problems. Under such circumstances, it is conceivable that vast systems for monitoring individuab could be implemented. The fact that they are without scientific value will not reduce their potential social impact.