David Eagleman: Why Our Legal System Needs Neuroscience
Along any axis that we measure, brains are different – whether in aggression, intelligence, empathy and so on. Brains are more like fingerprints: we all have them, but they are not exactly alike. As Lord Bingham, the senior law lord, put it, these myths embedded in the legal system do not provide a “uniformly accurate guide to human behaviour”.
The legal system needs an infusion of neuroscience. It needs to turn away from an ancient notion of how people should behave to understand better how they do behave.
Instead of treating incarceration as a “one-size-fits-all” solution to violators of social norms, Eagleman proposes that we try and sentence offenders based on a variety of different conditions. Specialty mental health courts and facilities for the mentally ill, studying the neurological demand for drugs instead of spending millions fighting the supply, and engaging prisoners in brain-based rehabilitation programs — all of these ideas focus on the reality of human behavior, instead of the societal expectations of it. Just as DNA evidence has revolutionized the legal process, Eagleman believes that incorporating the recent breakthroughs in neuroscience can help make our legal system more efficient, more humane, and more fair.
Read more about neuroscience speaker David Eagleman.