A Neuro-Legal Lingua Franca: Bridging Law and Neuroscience on the Issue of Self-Control
Mental Health Law & Policy Journal, Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2016 Last revised: 2 Sep 2016
Date Written: June 1, 2016
Neuroscientists are rapidly adding to our understanding of human behavior. This article argues that if the law wants the full benefits of neuro-scientific knowledge, it should attempt to develop a lingua franca — a method of communication understandable to both scientists and lawyers — based on neuro-scientific concepts. As a demonstration of such an attempt, we describe in a preliminary way how the criminal law’s concept of self-control might be operationalized using constructs, domains, processes and tasks familiar to neuroscientists. In the course of doing so, we stress the limits of scientific inference (particularly as it pertains to legally relevant individual-level assessment) and the fact that, despite semantic similarities, scientific constructs often do not track with the law's normative precepts.
Keywords: Neuroscience, Self-Control, Insanity Defense, Cognitive Science, Impulsivity
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