Stimulant drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulation, brain-computer interfaces, and even genetic modifications are all discussed as forms of potential cognitive enhancement. Cognitive enhancement can be conceived as a benefit-seeking strategy used by healthy individuals to enhance cognitive abilities such as learning, memory, attention, or vigilance. This phenomenon is hotly debated in the public, professional, and scientific literature. Many of the statements favoring cognitive enhancement (e.g., related to greater productivity and autonomy) or opposing it (e.g., related to health-risks and social expectations) rely on claims about human welfare and human flourishing. But with real-world evidence from the social and psychological sciences often missing to support (or invalidate) these claims, the debate about cognitive enhancement is stalled. In this paper, we describe a set of crucial debated questions about psychological and social aspects of cognitive enhancement (e.g., intrinsic motivation, well-being) and explain why they are of fundamental importance to address in the cognitive enhancement debate and in future research. We propose studies targeting social and psychological outcomes associated with cognitive enhancers (e.g., stigmatization, burnout, mental well-being, work motivation). We also voice a call for scientific evidence, inclusive of but not limited to biological health outcomes, to thoroughly assess the impact of enhancement. This evidence is needed to engage in empirically informed policymaking, as well as to promote the mental and physical health of users and non-users of enhancement.


Racine Eric, Sattler Sebastian, Wren Boehlen. Cognitive enhancement: Unanswered questions about human psychology and social behavior. Science and Engineering Ethics volume 27, 19 (2021). /