Brain Imaging and the Privacy of Inner States

Nada Gligorov

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Improvements in our ability to identify brain function as it is occurring through brain imaging have brought to the forefront the issue of mental privacy. Several authors have cited potential infringement on privacy as one of the primary ethical issues related to the application of brain imaging technology to clinical, research, and legal contexts. I challenge the argument that the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) poses a threat to mental privacy and that this type of privacy requires extra protections. I review all the positions about the nature of mental states that establish a category of mental privacy and conclude that none of those views can support both the claim that there is a category of mental privacy and that this type of privacy can be violated through the use of brain imaging. I further argue that the only position about the nature of mental states that erases the epistemological gap between introspection and third-person access to our inner states is eliminative materialism. Eliminativism, however, does this by denying the categories of folk psychology, including the category of mental privacy. Finally, I argue that because no view about the nature of mental states can support the argument that ‘brain reading’ will result in ‘mindreading,’ fMRI does not pose a threat to mental privacy. I conclude that special protections for mental privacy are not required because informational privacy already protects, at least in principle, the privacy of information about patients and about research participants in whatever way it is obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Brain and Mind
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameStudies in Brain and Mind
ISSN (Print)1573-4536
ISSN (Electronic)2468-399X


  • Brain Imaging
  • Brain State
  • Folk Psychology
  • Mental State
  • Phenomenal Property


Dive into the research topics of 'Brain Imaging and the Privacy of Inner States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this