Article

Brains in context in the neurolaw debate: The examples of free will and "dangerous" brains

Theory and History of Psychology, Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands.
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 1.19). 01/2012; 35(2):104-111. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2012.01.001

ABSTRACT Will neuroscience revolutionize forensic practice and our legal institutions? In the debate about the legal implications of brain research, free will and the neural bases of antisocial or criminal behavior are of central importance. By analyzing frequently quoted examples for the unconscious determinants of behavior and antisocial personality changes caused by brain lesions in a wider psychological and social context, the paper argues for a cautious middle position: Evidence for an impending normative "neuro-revolution" is scarce and neuroscience may instead gradually improve legal practice in the long run, particularly where normative questions directly pertain to brain-related questions. In the conclusion the paper raises concerns that applying neuroscience methods about an individual's responsibility or dangerousness is premature at the present time and carries serious individual and societal risks. Putting findings from brain research in wider contexts renders them empirically investigable in a way that does not neglect psychological and social aspects of human mind and behavior.

2 Bookmarks
 · 
241 Views
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The rapid developments in neuroscientific techniques raise high expectations among the general public and therefore warrant close monitoring of the translation to the media and daily-life applications. The need of empirical research into neuroscience communication is emphasized by its susceptibility to evoke misconceptions and polarized beliefs. As the mass media are the main sources of information about (neuro-)science for a majority of the general public, the objective of the current research is to quantify how critically and accurately newspapers report on neuroscience as a function of the timing of publication (within or outside of periods of heightened media attention to neuroscience, termed “news waves”), the topic of the research (e.g. development, health, law) and the newspaper type (quality, popular, free newspapers). The results show that articles published during neuroscience news waves were less neutral and more optimistic, but not different in accuracy. Furthermore, the overall tone and accuracy of articles depended on the topic; for example, articles on development often had an optimistic tone whereas articles on law were often skeptical or balanced, and articles on health care had highest accuracy. Average accuracy was rather low, but articles in quality newspapers were relatively more accurate than in popular and free newspapers. Our results provide specific recommendations for researchers and science communicators, to improve the translation of neuroscience findings through the media: 1) Caution is warranted during periods of heightened attention (news waves), as reporting tends to be more optimistic; 2) Caution is also warranted not to follow topic-related biases in optimism (e.g., development) or skepticism (e.g., law); 3) Researchers should keep in mind that overall accuracy of reporting is low, and especially articles in popular and free newspapers provide a minimal amount of details. This indicates that researchers themselves may need to be more active in preventing misconceptions to arise.
    PLoS ONE 08/2014; 9(8):e104780. · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Social and behavioral research in public health is often intimately tied to profound, but frequently neglected, biological influences from underlying genetic, environmental, and epigenetic events. The dynamic interplay between the life, social, and behavioral sciences often remains underappreciated and underutilized in addressing complex diseases and disorders and in developing effective remediation strategies. Using a case-study format, we present examples as to how the inclusion of genetic, environmental, and epigenetic data can augment social and behavioral health research by expanding the parameters of such studies, adding specificity to phenotypic assessments, and providing additional internal control in comparative studies. We highlight the important roles of gene-environment interactions and epigenetics as sources of phenotypic change and as a bridge between the life and social and behavioral sciences in the development of robust interdisciplinary analyses. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print August 8, 2013: e1-e10. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301221).
    American Journal of Public Health 08/2013; · 3.93 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In some criminal law cases, the defendant is assessed by a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist within the context of an insanity defense. In this article I argue that specific neuroscientific research can be helpful in improving the quality of such a forensic psychiatric evaluation. This will be clarified in two ways. Firstly, we shall adopt the approach of understanding these forensic assessments as evaluations of the influence of a mental disorder on a defendant's decision-making process. Secondly, I shall point to the fact that researchers in neuroscience have performed various studies over recent years on the influence of specific mental disorders on a patient's decision-making. I argue that such research, especially if modified to decision-making in criminal scenarios, could be very helpful to forensic psychiatric assessments. This kind of research aims to provide insights not merely into the presence of a mental disorder, but also into the actual impact of mental disorders on the decisions defendants have made in regard to their actions.
    International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 03/2013; 36(2):93-9. · 1.19 Impact Factor

Full-text

View
9 Downloads
Available from
Jun 28, 2014
Available from