Neuroscience in the courtroom? We first need a protocol

Harald L G J Merckelbach, Sophie E M Merckelbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleProfessional

Abstract

Neuroscientific evidence is prominently present in courts of law and may come in many forms. For example, it may consist of neuroradiological and/or neuropsychological results that are brought to courts to make the point that the claimant is suffering from dementia, ruling out his legal capacity to sign contracts. Neuroscientific evidence has an aura of solidity and objectivity and has been found to have a strong influence on the sentencing decisions of professional judges. In this article, we address one often overlooked issue, namely the biasability of neuroscientific evidence. We argue that neuroscientific evidence is sensitive to pathology bias, allegiance effects, and malingering (by claimants and defendants). In our view, neuroscientific evidence requires a protocol protecting expert witnesses against the biasing effects that are often inherent to the legal context. Such a protocol could, for example, emphasize blinding of procedures.

Translated title of the contributionNeuroscience in the courtroom?: We first need a protocol
Original languageDutch
Article numberA7020
JournalNederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde
Volume158
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Expert Testimony
  • Humans
  • Neurosciences

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