Neuroimages as evidence in a mens rea defense: No Impact

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Recent developments in the neuropsychology of criminal behavior have given rise to concerns that neuroimaging evidence (such as MRI and functional MRI [fMRI] images) could unduly influence jurors. Across four experiments, a nationally representative sample of 1,476 jury-eligible participants evaluated written summaries of criminal cases in which expert testimony was presented in support of a mental disorder as exculpatory. The evidence varied in the extent to which it presented neuroscientific explanations and neuroimages in support of the expert's conclusion. Despite suggestive findings from previous research, we found no evidence that neuroimagery affected jurors' judgments (verdicts, sentence recommendations, judgments of the defendant's culpability) over and above verbal neuroscience-based testimony. A meta-analysis of our four experiments confirmed these findings. In addition, we found that neuroscientific evidence was more effective than clinical psychological evidence in persuading jurors that the defendant's disorder reduced his capacity to control his actions, although this effect did not translate into differences in verdicts. © 2011 American Psychological Association.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Schweitzer, NJ; Saks, MJ; Murphy, ER; Roskies, AL; Sinnott-Armstrong, W; Gaudet, LM

Published Date

  • August 1, 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 357 - 393

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1076-8971

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/a0023581

Citation Source

  • Scopus