Thursday, October 18, 2012

Biological Evidence: Two-Edged Sword?

In a nationwide experiment, researchers from the Department of Psychology, University of Utah, asked 181 U.S. trial judges to review a mock case involving a fictional violent crime. Psychiatric testimony was presented showing that the perpetrator had been diagnosed as a psychopath, along with written testimony from a neurobiologist indicating that the perpetrator possessed a specific genetic variant linked to violent behavior. Also presented were studies involving other psychopaths that identified abnormalities in brain function; abnormalities that could potentially undermine the normal human aversion to inflicting harm on others. The judges who read the biological explanations handed out modestly reduced prison sentences in the mock case. The researchers reportedly expressed surprise that judges would be swayed by biological evidence in such a violent case. Does this suggest that biological brain evidence may turn out to be a two-edged sword? (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6096/788.summary

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