This is a review of an article from The Times – The dubious rise of ‘neurolaw. The article links in well with the Raine et al. study. I’ve written before about studies looking at the effect of brain damage on behaviour and if this could mitigate criminal behaviour and it seems that in some cases brain damage can cause violent behaviour – but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the behaviour. All of these arguments link in nicely with the freewill debate which is raging in the area of neuropsychology at the moment – and it’s studies and articles like those I’m discussing that are adding fuel to the fire.
Imagine this futuristic courtroom scene. The defence barrister stands up, and pointing to his client in the dock, makes this plea: “The case against Mr X must be dismissed. He cannot be held responsible for smashing Mr Y’s face into a pulp. He is not guilty, it was his brain that did it. Blame not Mr X, but his overactive amygdala. …
… If our brains are in charge, and bad behaviour is due to them, our attitude to criminal responsibility, to punishment (the balance between rehabilitation and retribution) and to preventive detention of individuals thought to have criminal tendencies may all have to change. ” [quote]
It’s an excellent article and very thought provoking. Especially as he discusses the effect of this new ‘neurolaw’ and ‘neuromitigation’ on future courtrooms. He does make an interesting point though (for any of you who are hoping to get away with murder with the old ‘it was my brain that did it); a fundamental issue within neuropsychology is that the brain is the person. Therefore, arguing that it was not your fault it was yourbrain would be tantamount to staying “…it wasn’t me, it was me!”
Hat tip to Lez Weintrobe for making me aware of this story through the OCR e-list.