PsyDoc’s Neurology of Morality Poll — The tumblr Jury Has Decided
A few days ago I asked you guys the same question posted on the Neuroethics Blog, relating to an infamous neurolaw case. My suspicion was that tumblr folk would vote a little differently, but I was very surprised! Out of 244 responses, the break down is shown above.
The majority’s opinion was similar to a guilty but mentally ill decision, best summed up by brodmannstwentysecond who answered: “Guilty of crime, yes, but deserves modified punishment”. Others who agreed also figured he is not morally responsible for the feelings because of the tumor, but he is legally responsible as deracializing-joe said, “He is not responsible for his obsession nor his urge. He is responsible for failing to seek help and preventive measures his actions.” backonthedrums wondered about his ”mental/though processes before actually committing that kinda of act (…) either way his impulses were in control, not him, which still finds him guilty, as well as ill.”
An unexpected unsure category emerged either wanting more information or not being able to judge between morally and legally responsible. Many questions were asked pertaining to impulse inhibition, not believing it could be impossible to not control oneself. If I were defense, I might remind that the frontal lobe is involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, judgement, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior (x) and that “further tests found the man was also unable to write or copy drawings and was unconcerned when he urinated on himself.” Can we just instruct: hay! Start caring about your incontinence this instant! We usually equate behavior easier to control over physical bodily functions, but is that truly the case?
thoughtcontainment was the only guy concerned with “solace” for the victim hinting at at good ol fashion retributivism ;) Surprisingly, most of the neurobloggers were holding the harshest line with neuromatic putting a bow on my point nicely, ”If the man with the tumor is not held responsible for his actions, where do we draw the line? Could individuals use brain tumors, hormone levels, or structural abnormalities as causal effects in murder cases?”
As a final note, the man had the tumor removed and the urges went away. However, the urges eventually reappeared, much to his disgust. Why? The tumor grew back. Which may have been inspiration, as a-gressr reminds us, for the “Law & Order SVU 5.25: Woman gets a plea bargain because tumor is removable but registers as a sex offender because it can grow back.” So, there ya go.
Thanks everyone for not just replying but explaining your rational. I wish I could fit everyone’s in. I might just do one of these regularly for the tumblr crowd to see how learning about behavioral neuroscience impacts moral judgement.