Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Crimes, misdemeanors and incomplete brain development

Nearly 10 years ago, the Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for crimes committed by minors in Roper v. Simmons.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, representing the majority opinion, wrote:


First, as any parent knows and as the scientific and sociological studies respondent and his amici cite tend to confirm, “[a] lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults and are more understandable among the young. These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions.”

Many who study the brain, particularly brain development, applauded the decision.  In fact, several neuroscientists and psychologist help Simmons' attorney craft his case.

But how far do we take this idea?  What does this lack of development really mean in terms of legal and criminal responsibility?

Walter Madison, attorney for Ma'lik Richmond, one of the two young football players convicted of rape earlier this month in Steubenville, Ohio, believes that his client's immature brain is grounds for an appeal.  The AtlanticWire reports:

To review: Madison is arguing that a 16-year-old's brain is not fully functional enough to determine whether raping an unconscious girl is a bad decision.

...

And finally, just to be clear: neuroscience says that teenagers have "underdeveloped decision processing centers," which is why teens take risks like stealing or doing drugs. Though, science doesn't say that you can blame the rape of an underage, unconscious girl on this kind of poor decision making.

Hmm.  I'm not sure this is what neuroscientists had in mind when they jumped on the Simmons' bandwagon.  Certainly they weren't arguing that anyone under 18 who commits a crime deserves a pass--rather, they argued that, given brain development, youthful perpetrators shouldn't be sentenced to die for their crimes.  I somehow doubt that Madison will get very far with his appeal--but stranger things have happened.

Still, even if Madison was just mugging on television for ratings, there's no question that neuroscience has the power to change the way we think about crime and punishment in the future.  It may even change the way we consider criminal responsibility--a key component in how a judge or jury determines guilt

What do you think?  As we learn more about the brain, how do we draw the right lines around how it's used in criminal proceedings?

Photo credit:  arfo/Shutterstock.com

----------

Did you know that DIRTY MINDS has be re-titled in paperback as THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON SEX: THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SEARCH FOR LOVE?  You can find it at major booksellers everywhere starting 3/26/13.

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

Videos
  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less

How COVID-19 will change the way we design our homes

Pandemic-inspired housing innovation will collide with techno-acceleration.

Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Coronavirus
COVID-19 is confounding planning for basic human needs, including shelter.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast