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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Mar 21;114(12):3222-3227. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1619385114. Epub 2017 Mar 13.

Predicting the knowledge-recklessness distinction in the human brain.

Author information

1
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom.
2
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Virginia Tech, Roanoke, VA 24016.
3
Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, KY 40506.
4
Department of Psychology, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210.
5
Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.
6
Second Judicial District (Denver), State of Colorado, Denver, CO 80202.
7
Vanderbilt Law School, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203.
8
Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203.
9
University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
10
Yale Law School, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511 read@vtc.vt.edu gideon.yaffe@yale.edu.
11
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom; read@vtc.vt.edu gideon.yaffe@yale.edu.

Abstract

Criminal convictions require proof that a prohibited act was performed in a statutorily specified mental state. Different legal consequences, including greater punishments, are mandated for those who act in a state of knowledge, compared with a state of recklessness. Existing research, however, suggests people have trouble classifying defendants as knowing, rather than reckless, even when instructed on the relevant legal criteria. We used a machine-learning technique on brain imaging data to predict, with high accuracy, which mental state our participants were in. This predictive ability depended on both the magnitude of the risks and the amount of information about those risks possessed by the participants. Our results provide neural evidence of a detectable difference in the mental state of knowledge in contrast to recklessness and suggest, as a proof of principle, the possibility of inferring from brain data in which legally relevant category a person belongs. Some potential legal implications of this result are discussed.

KEYWORDS:

elastic-net model; knowledge; mental states; neurolaw; recklessness

PMID:
28289225
PMCID:
PMC5373370
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1619385114
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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