Colloquium: Persuasive Brain Scans: the Influence of Neuroscience Evidence on Legal Decision_Making

Findings from neuroscience research are increasingly advancing our understandings of the neural correlates of human behavior, cognition and emotion. These findings are beginning to gain visibility in the legal system, including the courtroom. To an increasing extent, judges are being confronted with neuroscience evidence concerning the truthfulness of a suspect, the degree to which the suspect should be held criminally responsible, and the likelihood of future offending. By directly measuring brain activity, neurotechnologies hold the promise of increasing the quality of evidence in legal proceedings, and could therefore be of great value to the legal system. However, such practice has important implications, including the possibility that neuroscience evidence is perceived as more credible than is scientifically warranted, thereby unduly affecting legal decision-making. The presentation of brain images, the quality of expert testimony and the use of scientific terminology may even increase this effect. Several researchers have recently raised the concern that neuroscience evidence may be perceived in court without sufficient critical appraisal. However, there is yet no empirical research that has explored the effect of neuroscience evidence on legal decision-making. Without empirical support, the usability of neuroscience evidence and its influence on legal decision-making cannot be determined.
The aim of the proposed research is to explore the potential influence of neuroscience evidence on legal decision-making. Moreover, the effect of presenting brain images, the quality of expert testimony and the use of scientific terminology on evaluations of neuroscience evidence and legal decision-making will be assessed. The research aim will be achieved by conducting four experimental studies including law students and legal professionals.

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