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Neuroethics. 2012 Apr 1;5(1):67-99.

Neuroprediction, Violence, and the Law: Setting the Stage.

Author information

  • 1Department of Philosophy, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA 17013, USA. The Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University, PO Box 90432, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
  • 2University of Pennsylvania Law School, 3400 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
  • 3Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
  • 4Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico & the Mind Research Network, 1101, Yale Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, USA.
  • 5The Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
  • 6Department of Philosophy & the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University, PO Box 90432, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
  • 7Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, & The Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.

Abstract

In this paper, our goal is to (a) survey some of the legal contexts within which violence risk assessment already plays a prominent role, (b) explore whether developments in neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict violence, and (c) discuss whether neuropredictive models of violence create any unique legal or moral problems above and beyond the well worn problems already associated with prediction more generally. In "Violence Risk Assessment and the Law", we briefly examine the role currently played by predictions of violence in three high stakes legal contexts: capital sentencing ("Violence Risk Assessment and Capital Sentencing"), civil commitment hearings ("Violence Risk Assessment and Civil Commitment"), and "sexual predator" statutes ("Violence Risk Assessment and Sexual Predator Statutes"). In "Clinical vs. Actuarial Violence Risk Assessment", we briefly examine the distinction between traditional clinical methods of predicting violence and more recently developed actuarial methods, exemplified by the Classification of Violence Risk (COVR) software created by John Monahan and colleagues as part of the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence [1]. In "The Neural Correlates of Psychopathy", we explore what neuroscience currently tells us about the neural correlates of violence, using the recent neuroscientific research on psychopathy as our focus. We also discuss some recent advances in both data collection ("Cutting-Edge Data Collection: Genetically Informed Neuroimaging") and data analysis ("Cutting-Edge Data Analysis: Pattern Classification") that we believe will play an important role when it comes to future neuroscientific research on violence. In "The Potential Promise of Neuroprediction", we discuss whether neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict future violence. Finally, in "The Potential Perils of Neuroprediction", we explore some potential evidentiary ("Evidentiary Issues"), constitutional ("Constitutional Issues"), and moral ("Moral Issues") issues that may arise in the context of the neuroprediction of violence.

KEYWORDS:

Criminal law; Neuroscience; Prediction; Psychopathy; Violence risk assessment

PMID:
25083168
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC4114735
Free PMC Article
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