Friday, June 4, 2021
Andreas Kuersten and John D. Medaglia (Georgetown University - Center for Clinical Bioethics and Assistant Professor) have posted Neuroscience and the Model Penal Code's Mens Rea Categories (Duke Law Journal Online, Vol. 71 (Forthcoming)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Essay addresses recent research and commentary regarding the potential contributions of cognitive neuroscience to law. For the first time, cognitive neuroscience methods have been brought to bear on the Model Penal Code’s (MPC’s) culpable–mental state categories through a neuroimaging study seeking to identify the neural correlates of knowledge and recklessness. Subsequently, this study has been presented as a paradigm for utilizing cognitive neuroscience to answer important legal questions. However, the original experiment appears to suffer serious experimental-design and conceptual limitations, belying subsequent advocacy for the legal utility of cognitive neuroscience. This Essay methodically details these limitations and argues that the original study does not seem to have actually elicited knowledge or recklessness in subjects or, even if it did, elicited them in discrete-enough fashion to permit identification of the mental states’ neural correlates. The Essay also contends, more broadly, that cognitive neuroscience appears inapt for investigating the propriety of the MPC’s mens rea delineations since these are articulated in purely psychological-behavioral terms: mental states are the only requisites.