Law and the Brain

By Lande, R. Gregory | Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Law and the Brain


Lande, R. Gregory, Journal of Psychiatry & Law


Law and the Brain, by Semir Zeki and Oliver Goodenough, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006), 271 pp., $59.50.

According to a popular television show, "Space is the final frontier" (Star Trek 1966-present). Before the fantasy of television, a variety of terrestrial "final frontiers" such as Alaska, Antarctica, and the deep seas beckoned intrepid explorers. The notion of a "final frontier" conjures up images of bold people pursuing larger than life challenges. Society is the ultimate beneficiary of these individual acts of audacity.

The mental image of the explorer rarely extends to the staid discoveries of academicians. Cloistered safely in their offices and confronting nothing more threatening than internecine academic politics, the intellectual probing of academicians lacks the sense of danger faced by traditional explorers. However, the influence of philosophers and scientists can be just as epochal as an explorer who unearths a long lost Egyptian tomb.

The authors of "Law and the Brain" clearly believe a seismic event is near in which science triumphs the antiquated legal system. Standing on the pinnacle of neuroscience research, the authors cast their gaze on the horizon and see a time when, ". . . the law itself will come under more intense scrutiny when neurobiologists begin to probe the brain's sense of justice." (p. xiv)

A more practical, albeit questionable claim, suggests, "It is quite possible that, in the very near future, brain-imaging techniques will replace finger-printing and lie-detector tests as reliable indices of identity and of the truthfulness of a witness's statement." It seems curious that "Law and the Brain" raises the specter of lie-detector tests as a measure of scientific credibility. Few technical advances have such a storied and controversial legal history. (http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/Polygraph)

The history of the polygraph began early in the twentieth century. A number of technical advances improved the physiologic monitoring of subjects but limited scientific study, brash marketing tainted the polygraph's credibility. Nearly a hundred years after its introduction, and dozens of studies later, the polygraph still lacks evidence of significant validity. Despite its lack of accuracy, the polygraph is widely used in certain employment and forensic settings.

The legal profession has steadfastly maintained a distant and cool relationship with the polygraph. Extending from the brief 1923 opinion in U.S. v. Frye to the 1998 opinion in U.S. v. Scheffer, the polygraph proponents failed in their bids to achieve legal "respectability." As it stands now, relatively few courts admit polygraph evidence, and then only with significant limitations. If the forecasters in "Law and the Brain" tout polygraphs as emblematic of neuroscience's contributions, then the future will be one characterized by controversy and marginalization.

Some readers, particularly those with extensive medical-legal experience, may dismiss "Law and the Brain" for its sciencefiction like claims and philosophical musings. In a complex discussion of neuroeconomics, the author foresees a time when, "neural activity can be measured as rewards and punishments are varied to determine why most punishments fail. . . ." It seems hard to imagine a prisoner, defense attorney, and perhaps, Americans in general, accepting this Orwellian version of justice.

Some readers might also get trapped in a philosophical quagmire.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Law and the Brain
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.