In this paper, our goal is to survey some of the legal contexts within which violence risk assessment already plays a prominent role, explore whether developments in neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict violence, and discuss whether neuropredictive models of violence create any unique legal or moral problems above and beyond the well worn problems already associated with prediction more generally. In Violence Risk Assessment and the Law, we briefly examine the role currently played by (...) predictions of violence in three high stakes legal contexts: capital sentencing, civil commitment hearings, and sexual predator statutes. In Clinical vs. Actuarial Violence Risk Assessment, we briefly examine the distinction between traditional clinical methods of predicting violence and more recently developed actuarial methods, exemplified by the Classification of Violence Risk software created by John Monahan and colleagues as part of the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence . In The Neural Correlates of Psychopathy, we explore what neuroscience currently tells us about the neural correlates of violence, using the recent neuroscientific research on psychopathy as our focus. We also discuss some recent advances in both data collection and data analysis that we believe will play an important role when it comes to future neuroscientific research on violence. In The Potential Promise of Neuroprediction, we discuss whether neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict future violence. Finally, in The Potential Perils of Neuroprediction, we explore some potential evidentiary, constitutional, and moral issues that may arise in the context of the neuroprediction of violence. (shrink)
Psychopaths constitute less than 1% of the general population, but they commit a much larger proportion of crime and violence in society. This volume chronicles the latest science of psychopathy, various ways that psychopaths challenge the criminal justice system, and the major ethical issues arising from this fascinating condition.
Psychopathy is a disorder characterized by severe and frequent moral violations in multiple domains of life. Numerous studies have shown psychopathy-related limbic brain abnormalities during moral processing; however, these studies only examined negatively valenced moral stimuli. Here, we aimed to replicate prior psychopathy research on negative moral judgments and to extend this work by examining psychopathy-related abnormalities in the processing of controversial moral stimuli and positive moral processing. Incarcerated adult males (N = 245) completed a functional magnetic resonance imaging protocol (...) on a mobile imaging system stationed at the prison. Psychopathy was assessed using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (PCL-R). Participants were then shown words describing three types of moral stimuli: wrong (e.g., stealing), not wrong (e.g., charity), and controversial (e.g., euthanasia). Participants rated each stimulus as either wrong or not wrong. PCL-R total scores were correlated with not wrong behavioral responses to wrong moral stimuli, and were inversely related to hemodynamic activity in the anterior cingulate cortex in the contrast of wrong > not wrong. In the controversial > noncontroversial comparison, psychopathy was inversely associated with activity in the temporal parietal junction and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These results indicate that psychopathy-related abnormalities are observed during the processing of complex, negative, and positive moral stimuli. (shrink)
This study presents the first neuroimaging investigation of female psychopathy in an incarcerated population. Prior studies have found that male psychopathy is associated with reduced limbic and paralimbic activation when processing emotional stimuli and making moral judgments. The goal of this study was to investigate whether these findings extend to female psychopathy. During fMRI scanning, 157 incarcerated and 46 non-incarcerated female participants viewed unpleasant pictures, half which depicted moral transgressions, and neutral pictures. Participants rated each picture on moral transgression severity. (...) Psychopathy was assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) in all incarcerated participants. Non-incarcerated participants were included as a control group to derive brain regions of interest associated with viewing unpleasant vs. neutral pictures (emotion contrast), and unpleasant pictures depicting moral transgressions vs. unpleasant pictures without moral transgressions (moral contrast). Regression analyses in the incarcerated group examined the association between PCL-R scores and brain activation in the emotion and moral contrasts. Results of the emotion contrast revealed a negative correlation between PCL-R scores and activation in the right amygdala and rostral anterior cingulate. Results of the moral contrast revealed a negative correlation between PCL-R scores and activation in the right temporo-parietal junction. These results indicate that female psychopathy, like male psychopathy, is characterized by reduced limbic activation during emotion processing. In contrast, reduced temporo-parietal activation to moral transgressions has been less observed in male psychopathy. These results extend prior findings in male psychopathy to female psychopathy, and reveal aberrant neural responses to morally-salient stimuli that may be unique to female psychopathy. (shrink)
Understanding the role of emotion in moral judgment has been an active area of investigation and debate. Here we comment on this topic by examining the interaction between emotion and moral judgment in certain psychopathological groups that are characterized by abnormalities in emotion processing, such as psychopaths and sexual offenders with paraphilic disorders.