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Behavioral sciences journal publishes Saks' article

Michael Saks
August 19, 2011

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Regents’ Professor of Law and Psychology Michael Saks has co-authored an article, “Neuroimage Evidence and the Insanity Defense,” which was published in the July/August issue of Behavioral Sciences & the Law.

The article reports on research conducted by Saks and co-author Nick Schweitzer, an assistant professor in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the ASU New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. It focuses on concerns that, with the introduction in criminal trials of neuroscientific evidence such as magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, such neuroimagery presented by expert witnesses might inordinately influence jurors’ evaluations of defendants.

“In this experiment, a diverse sample of 1,170 community members from throughout the U.S. evaluated a written mock trial in which psychological, neuropsychological, neuroscientific, and neuroimage-based expert evidence was presented in support of a not guilty by reason of insanity defense,” the authors wrote. “No evidence of an independent influence of neuroimagery was found. Overall, neuroscience-based evidence was found to be more persuasive than psychological and anecdotal family history evidence. These effects were consistent across different insanity standards. Despite the non-influence of neuroimagery, however, jurors who were not provided with a neuroimage indicated that they believed neuroimagery would have been the most helpful kind of evidence in their evaluations of the defendant.”

Behavioral Sciences & the Law is a peer reviewed journal which provides current and comprehensive information from throughout the world on topics at the interface of the law and the behavioral sciences. The journal balances theoretical, mental health, legal and research writings to provide a broad perspective on pertinent psycho-legal topics.

Read the article here.

Saks’ research focuses on empirical studies of the legal system, especially decision making, the behavior of the litigation system and the law’s use of science. A Faculty Fellow in the Center for Law, Science & Innovation, he is the fourth most-cited law-and-social-science scholar in the U.S., and has authored approximately 200 articles and books. Courses he has taught include criminal law, evidence, law and science, property and torts.

Janie Magruder,
Office of Communications, College of Law