Functional imaging has become a primary tool in the study of human psychology but is not without its detractors. Although cognitive neuroscientists have made great strides in understanding the neural instantiation of countless cognitive processes, commentators have sometimes argued that functional imaging provides little or no utility for psychologists. And indeed, myriad studies over the last quarter century have employed the technique of brain mapping—identifying the neural correlates of various psychological phenomena—in ways that bear minimally on psychological theory. How can brain mapping be made more relevant to behavioral scientists broadly? Here, we describe three trends that increase precisely this relevance: (i) the use of neuroimaging data to adjudicate between competing psychological theories through forward inference, (ii) isolating neural markers of information processing steps to better understand complex tasks and psychological phenomena through probabilistic reverse inference, and (iii) using brain activity to predict subsequent behavior. Critically, these new approaches build on the extensive tradition of brain mapping, suggesting that efforts in this area—although not initially maximally relevant to psychology—can indeed be used in ways that constrain and advance psychological theory.

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