Neuroethics Publications

Document Type

Technical Report

Date of this Version

3-21-2017

Publication Source

PNAS

Volume

114

Issue

12

Start Page

3222

Last Page

3227

DOI

10.1073/pnas.1619385114

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.

Copyright/Permission Statement

© 2017 National Academy of Sciences.

Keywords

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

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Date Posted: 05 January 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.