chapter  7
21 Pages

Neuroscientific approaches to ‘mens rea’ assessment: Ullrich Wagner and Henrik Walter


The present chapter examines what neuroscience can contribute to this legal process of ‘mens rea’ assessment, summarizing the current state of relevant empirical findings in cognitive neuroscience. As such, it aims to contribute to an emerging new field within social neuroscience, called ‘neurolaw’, trying to connect neuroscience and law (Goodenough & Prehn, 2004; Gazzaniga, 2008; Schleim, Spranger, & Walter, 2009; Goodenough & Tucker, 2010; Müller & Walter, 2011). Although few neuroscientific studies have directly addressed legal topics so far, social neuroscience has meanwhile investigated a variety of cognitive processes pertinent to the legal process of ‘mens rea’ assessment, such as belief attribution, moral judgement, and deception. Therefore, social neuroscience could provide useful additional information on how a ‘mens rea’ can be identified.