A Neuro-Legal Lingua Franca: Bridging Law and Neuroscience on the Issue of Self-Control

Mental Health Law & Policy Journal, Forthcoming

Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 16-32

31 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2016 Last revised: 2 Sep 2016

Joshua W. Buckholtz

Harvard University

Valerie F. Reyna

Cornell University

Christopher Slobogin

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: June 1, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Buckholtz, Joshua W. and Reyna, Valerie F. and Slobogin, Christopher, A Neuro-Legal Lingua Franca: Bridging Law and Neuroscience on the Issue of Self-Control (June 1, 2016). Mental Health Law & Policy Journal, Forthcoming; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 16-32. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2788178

Joshua W. Buckholtz

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Valerie F. Reyna

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Christopher Slobogin (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

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