- Published: September 11, 2012
- Written by Joshua P. Preston
According to neurolaw, a successful and just legal system will be one that concerns itself with the steps moving forward with the specific brain on trial. If our behavior is influenced by our biology and circumstance, it is irreducibly complex to assess a criminal’s culpability in a way that is both satisfying and scientifically-informed. Instead of comparing and judging the sizes of one’s frontal lobe or another part’s propensity for firing (or not firing) certain chemicals while also factoring in one’s upbringing and the effects social institutions can have on our behavior, our legal system should focus on rehabilitation rather than strict punishment.
The question is, though, how should we go about rehabilitating? The answer: in a manner that gives the criminal the cognitive “tools” to not only distinguish right from wrong but to be able to guide their behavior accordingly. While there are many ways in which this can be done (one neuroscientist suggests the “prefrontal workout”) something that has caught my attention is the fledgling field of Literary Neuroscience.
At Stanford University researchers are investigating the ways in which literary study—in this case of Jane Austen—affects the brain. Going into an fMRI machine, participants were expected to first “leisurely skim a passage as…