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.
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.
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.
…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.
"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