Posts tagged Politics

Neuroscientific evidence is increasingly being offered in court cases. Consequently, the legal system needs neuroscientists to act as expert witnesses who can explain the limitations and interpretations of neuroscientific findings so that judges and jurors can make informed and appropriate inferences. The growing role of neuroscientists in court means that neuroscientists should be aware of important differences between the scientific and legal fields, and, especially, how scientific facts can be easily misunderstood by non-scientists, including judges and jurors.

Neuroscientists in court

Like sands through the hourglass — back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s with the swing/swing door of the forensic psychology & law merge of linguistics, educating lawyers on psychological concepts and psychologists on legalese then translating expert witnesses to the jury — so are the days of our lives. 

We seemed to have done a decent job of convincing society that psychological science is important, but this has only increased the demand for us to show how what we have discovered can be used outside the laboratory to help improve lives. Although most of us have this goal in the abstract, at times we also need to be more concrete.

For example, economists routinely inform public policy in ways psychological scientists have not, even though our insights may be equally, or even more, valuable.

Looking Beyond the Neuro Revolution in Psychological Science - By NYU’s Elizabeth A. Phelps, H/T @vaughnbell

If she’s not saying the next big thing is for scientists to inform public policy, then I will.

One of the things I look at:

… the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. It’s proposed legislation by U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He said the legislation “does bring addition resources to budget constrained governments.”

Super. I’ll talk about that later.

Those resources would include a domestic trafficking victim’s fun, fucking for state and local law enforcement to track down sex offenders, and increased penalties for those convicted of related crimes. {via}

Ok, if you can get around the typos and Freudian slips there, the idea is to increase penalties for sex offenders in the form of fines. But think about punishing sex predators the same way we punish sex offenders. I think these are two distinctive types of people, committing different types of crimes. But we will punish them the same. How effective is this?
The fines will allow 3 things: a victims’ fund, more money to keep offenders locked up longer and more money back into law enforcement for policing methods (tasks forces/training, new hires, etc). My guess is the highest allocation will be in reverse order.
This is one of the many wonderful examples I study re: the way legislature and public dollars may or may not effect sex crimes and/or violent crime rates & the people committing them.  Also interesting that the person we see being cuffed here is a young female, this isn’t just another pop media mistake, is statistically correct for this county. Cutting off the supply should fix things, eh?

One of the things I look at:

… the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. It’s proposed legislation by U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He said the legislation “does bring addition resources to budget constrained governments.”

Super. I’ll talk about that later.

Those resources would include a domestic trafficking victim’s fun, fucking for state and local law enforcement to track down sex offenders, and increased penalties for those convicted of related crimes. {via}

Ok, if you can get around the typos and Freudian slips there, the idea is to increase penalties for sex offenders in the form of fines. But think about punishing sex predators the same way we punish sex offenders. I think these are two distinctive types of people, committing different types of crimes. But we will punish them the same. How effective is this?

The fines will allow 3 things: a victims’ fund, more money to keep offenders locked up longer and more money back into law enforcement for policing methods (tasks forces/training, new hires, etc). My guess is the highest allocation will be in reverse order.

This is one of the many wonderful examples I study re: the way legislature and public dollars may or may not effect sex crimes and/or violent crime rates & the people committing them.  Also interesting that the person we see being cuffed here is a young female, this isn’t just another pop media mistake, is statistically correct for this county. Cutting off the supply should fix things, eh?

Face-to-face diplomacy has long been the lynchpin of international politics, yet it has largely been dismissed as irrelevant in theories of cooperation and conflict—as “cheap talk” because leaders have incentives to dissemble. However, diplomats and leaders have argued for years that there is often no substitute for personally meeting a counterpart to hash out an agreement. This article argues that face-to-face diplomacy provides a signaling mechanism thatincreases the likelihood of cooperation. Face-to-face meetings allow individuals to transmit information and empathize with each other, thereby reducing uncertainty, even when they have strong incentives to distrust the other. The human brain has discrete architecture and processes devoted to parsing others’ intentions via cues in face-to-face interaction. These processes enable actors to directly access the intentions of others with a higher degree of certainty than economic and gametheoretic models of bargaining predict.
“If you routinely hear voices, hallucinate, sink into suicidal depression or suffer inescapable torment, Los Angeles has a place for you.

The county jail.”

Sheriff Lee Baca has said for decades that he runs the nation’s largest mental hospital, but we’ve heard it so often that the shock has worn off. We know there’s something inexcusably wrong with the system — something backward and inhumane. But we shrug and move on, and the failure of public policy persists, at great public expense, while Los Angeles County officials order up another round of studies. [via]

I wish I could share the story I heard today about a prison rejecting a study application re: recidivism because “there has never been one like it done before”. Don’t need to know anything we don’t already know and actively ignore, right? Got our plates full people, thankyew.

If you routinely hear voices, hallucinate, sink into suicidal depression or suffer inescapable torment, Los Angeles has a place for you.

The county jail.”

Sheriff Lee Baca has said for decades that he runs the nation’s largest mental hospital, but we’ve heard it so often that the shock has worn off. We know there’s something inexcusably wrong with the system — something backward and inhumane. But we shrug and move on, and the failure of public policy persists, at great public expense, while Los Angeles County officials order up another round of studies. [via]

I wish I could share the story I heard today about a prison rejecting a study application re: recidivism because “there has never been one like it done before”. Don’t need to know anything we don’t already know and actively ignore, right? Got our plates full people, thankyew.

Current status- Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty
by Simon Baron-Cohen

Empathy is a universal solvent.  
(…) 
And unlike the arms industry, which cost trillions of dollars to maintain, or the prison industry and legal system, which costs millions of dollars to keep oiled, empathy is free. And unlike religion, empathy cannot by definition oppress anyone.

Current status- Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty

by Simon Baron-Cohen

Empathy is a universal solvent.  

(…) 

And unlike the arms industry, which cost trillions of dollars to maintain, or the prison industry and legal system, which costs millions of dollars to keep oiled, empathy is free. And unlike religion, empathy cannot by definition oppress anyone.

“The price of your soul: How the brain decides whether to sell out”

An Emory University neuro-imaging study shows that personal values that people refuse to disavow, even when offered cash to do so, are processed differently in the brain than those values that are willingly sold.


The brain imaging data showed a strong correlation between sacred values and activation of the neural systems associated with evaluating rights and wrongs (the left temporoparietal junction) and semantic rule retrieval (the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex), but not with systems associated with reward.


The experiment also found activation in the amygdala region, a brain region associated with emotional reactions, but only in cases where participants refused to take cash to state the opposite of what they believe. “Those statements represent the most repugnant items to the individual,” Berns says, “and would be expected to provoke the most arousal, which is consistent with the idea that when sacred values are violated, that induces moral outrage.” [via]

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The price of your soul: How the brain decides whether to sell out

An Emory University neuro-imaging study shows that personal values that people refuse to disavow, even when offered cash to do so, are processed differently in the brain than those values that are willingly sold.

The brain imaging data showed a strong correlation between sacred values and activation of the neural systems associated with evaluating rights and wrongs (the left temporoparietal junction) and semantic rule retrieval (the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex), but not with systems associated with reward.

The experiment also found activation in the amygdala region, a brain region associated with emotional reactions, but only in cases where participants refused to take cash to state the opposite of what they believe. “Those statements represent the most repugnant items to the individual,” Berns says, “and would be expected to provoke the most arousal, which is consistent with the idea that when sacred values are violated, that induces moral outrage.” [via]

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…as evolved social creatures, we have brains that are attuned to trying to discern the intentions of others—and we look for patterns, there, too, and then try to infuse them with human intention and meaning, or what Mr. Shermer calls “agenticity.” Patterns in life are variously ascribed to the work of ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers and federal conspirators. “Even belief that the government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity,” the author says.

Mr. Shermer also delves into the neuroscience of “the believing brain.” For example, he cites research suggesting that people with high levels of the feel-good neurochemical dopamine “are more likely to find significance in coincidences and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none.” Even for folks with normal chemical levels, there’s a neurological upside to pattern-finding: When we come across information that confirms what we already believe, we get a rewarding jolt of dopamine.

 -  WSJ review by RONALD BAILEY: "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer

Interested in Neuroethics and National Security? Well you are now.

This article – informed by science studies scholarship and consonant with the emerging enterprise of “critical neuroscience” – critiques recent neuroscience research, and its current and potential applications in the national security context. The author expresses concern about the subtle interplay between the national security and neuroscience communities, and the hazards of the mutual enchantment that may ensue.

The Bush administration’s “war on terror” has provided numerous examples of the abuse of medicine, behavioral psychology, polygraphy and satellite imagery. The defense and national security communities have an ongoing interest in neuroscience too – in particular, neuroimaging and psychoactive drugs (including oxytocin) as aids to interrogation. Given the seductive allure of neuroscientific explanations and colorful brain images, neuroscience in a national security context is particularly vulnerable to abuse. The author calls for an urgent re-evaluation of national security neuroscience as part of a broader public discussion about neuroscience’s non-therapeutic goals.

I really like the tone of this one: Fascinating article that constructively criticizes the crossroads of neuroscience and the real world applications that exist “where the translation from research lab to real life may involve great leaps, among them the troubling jump from brain scanning to terrorist screening.”

 One point particularly well articulated is about the linguistic “hazards—practical and ethical—that arise from the deployment of opaque terminology” speaking to how common of a misconception is it for the layman to be under the impression that because we have a big important name for a part of the brain- that must mean we understand everything about it, selling  pseudo intellectual fluency…which is clearly far from the truth.

My ‘ol buddy (in my head) Dr. Gudjonsson makes a quick appearance referencing to SERE tactics and interrogations leading to the recognition that there is a lack of research surrounding national security and neuroscience. From truth serums to oxytocin laced drugs, polygrpahs and to my personal fav, brain imaging…these instruments are presented and deconstructed in a way that is easy to understand and at the same time, makes us question how we could ever trust their use for lie detection or terrorist screening. You might say duh, but this is the court where ball is being played now.

LSD and, increasingly, the polygraph may seem consigned to the annals of U.S. national security. But no one should doubt that the concerns that have motivated their use are alive and well in the neuroscience and national security communities. Via

I’ll take that as a fair warning.


ResearchBlogging.org Marks, J.H. (2010). A Neuroskeptic’s Guide to Neuroethics and National Security American Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, 1 (2), 4-12 (in press)

An Arbitrary System

"To paraphrase Animal Farm, all people are equal, but some people are more equal than others.

A legal system cannot demand the faith and fealty of the governed when rules are seen as arbitrary and deceptive. Our leaders have led us not to an economic crisis or an immigration crisis or an environmental crisis or a civil liberties crisis. They have led us to a crisis of faith where citizens no longer believe that laws have any determinant meaning. It is politics, not the law, that appears to drive outcomes — a self-destructive trend for a nation supposedly defined by the rule of law.”

Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University

(via)

photographyprison:

What Obama’s Budget Looks Like From a Prison Cell
“This is what Obama’s 2011 budget looks like from here in a Taft, CA prison: disappointing. 
In particular, I was disheartened to read that the President’s 2011 budget calls for a $528 million infusion into the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Should the budget pass, that means the BOP’s budget — already exorbitant — will rise to $6.8 billion in the 2011 fiscal year. I’ve long maintained that we need prison reforms in the federal system to help do just the opposite, and lower taxpayer costs by eliminating policies that warehouse non-violent offenders for decades. But it seems that so far, the president isn’t yet on the same page.”

photographyprison:

What Obama’s Budget Looks Like From a Prison Cell

“This is what Obama’s 2011 budget looks like from here in a Taft, CA prison: disappointing.

In particular, I was disheartened to read that the President’s 2011 budget calls for a $528 million infusion into the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Should the budget pass, that means the BOP’s budget — already exorbitant — will rise to $6.8 billion in the 2011 fiscal year. I’ve long maintained that we need prison reforms in the federal system to help do just the opposite, and lower taxpayer costs by eliminating policies that warehouse non-violent offenders for decades. But it seems that so far, the president isn’t yet on the same page.”