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Conceptual review as task analysis method

Meta-analysis is a crucial research tool in cognitive neuroscience. For meta-analysis to succeed, it is important that studies that are grouped together investigate the same cognitive process and that studies that investigate different cognitive processes are grouped apart. After all, comparing apples and oranges makes no sense. Studies’ comparability depends on the cognitive tasks employed. Yet current meta-analyses, especially when automated (e.g. Neurosynth, BrainMap), select and group studies based on cognitive labels (e.g. ‘working memory’, ‘self-reflection’). Unfortunately, labels are often applied inconsistently to tasks: different tasks may receive the same cognitive label, leading to a comparison of apples and oranges during meta-analysis; and the same task may receive different labels, leading to meta-analyses that fail to include all apples, so to speak. I propose conceptual review as a method for overcoming this problem. A conceptual review analyzes the conceptual implications of task choices made in a cognitive neuroscience subfield. It applies philosophical ways of uncovering and analyzing implicit assumptions to the methodological choices neuroscientists make. I explicate how this works and discuss several ways in which conceptual review would benefit cognitive neuroscience. Conceptual review could be combined with neuro-informatics to improve the quality of automated versions of meta-analysis and thereby provide an important contribution to progress in cognitive neuroscience.
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Keywords: cognitive ontology; conceptual review; experimental tasks; meta-analysis; operationalization; philosophy of neuroscience

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • Het Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte (ANTW), opgericht in 1908, is een filosofisch wetenschappelijk tijdschrift dat oorspronkelijke artikelen publiceert van auteurs uit het Nederlands-Vlaamse taalgebied. Het ANTW richt zich op een breed scala van deelgebieden, stromingen, discussies en perioden van de filosofie. Het ANTW brengt vier nummers per jaar uit: twee focusnummers waarin steeds één omvangrijk artikel centraal staat van een prominente Nederlandse of Vlaamse filosoof, gevolgd door commentaren en een afsluitende repliek van de focusauteur; een regulier nummer met onderzoeksartikelen, overzichtsartikelen en congresverslagen; en een themanummer met artikelen rond een tevoren vastgesteld thema.

    The Dutch language journal Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Wijsbegeerte (ANTW), founded in 1908, is a philosophical, academic journal that publishes original articles from authors in the Netherlands and Belgium. ANTW focuses on a broad variety of subjects, trends, discussions and periods in philosophy. ANTW publishes four issues each year: Two Focus Issues that contain one large article from a prominent Dutch or Flemish philosopher (Focus Article), followed by six shorter comments and a closing reply by the focus Author. One regular issue covering research articles, overview articles and congress reports. And one themed issue in which circa six articles focus on certain subjects relevant in philosophy.
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