Toward A Neuroscientifically Informed “Reasonable Person” Test

16 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2021

See all articles by Zhihao Zhang

Zhihao Zhang

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Maxwell Good

University of California, Berkeley - University of California, Berkeley

Vera Kulikov

University of California, Berkeley - University of California, Berkeley

Femke van Horen

VU University Amsterdam

Andrew Kayser

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Ming Hsu

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Date Written: May 29, 2021

Abstract

Legal tests invoking the viewpoint of a so-called reasonable person play an important role in many domains of the law, ranging from intellectual property to free speech. In such cases, a central question involves determining how a hypothetical individual with “an ordinary or average level of care, prudence, or knowledge” would respond. Despite the seemingly commonsensical nature of these tests, their judicial application can be controversial due to concerns about subjectivity and vulnerability to explicit or implicit biases. Here we take a step toward addressing these concerns by using neuroscientific tools to observe, without the use of self-report, the nature of mental representations central to a set of disputes invoking the reasonable person. Specifically, using an fMRI-based measure, repetition suppression, to generate a neural index of subjective visual similarity, we sought to inform the application of the reasonable person test to a class of intellectual property law that evaluates whether a trademark is so similar to another as to generate consumer confusion. We show that, by leveraging well-established neuroscientific knowledge about visual processing, it is possible to construct a parsimonious neural index of subjective similarity using signals from object-sensitive brain regions identified a priori. Moreover, this neural index, aggregated across multiple participants, is sufficiently precise to detect instances of experimenter-induced bias in behavioral reports. Together these findings shed light on the potential evidentiary value of neuroscientific data to inform questions involving the reasonable person and suggest a novel domain for the use of neuroscience in law.

Keywords: aw and neuroscience, reasonable person standard, fMRI, repetition suppression, intellectual property

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K22, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Zhang, Zhihao and Good, Maxwell and Kulikov, Vera and van Horen, Femke and Kayser, Andrew and Hsu, Ming, Toward A Neuroscientifically Informed “Reasonable Person” Test (May 29, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3876774 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3876774

Zhihao Zhang

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Maxwell Good

University of California, Berkeley - University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Vera Kulikov

University of California, Berkeley - University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Femke Van Horen

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
Netherlands
+31205982272 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.feweb.vu.nl/nl/afdelingen-en-instituten/marketing/staff/horen/index.asp

Andrew Kayser

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) ( email )

Third Avenue and Parnassus
San Francisco, CA 94143
United States

Ming Hsu (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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