Neuroimage evidence and the insanity defense

Behav Sci Law. Jul-Aug 2011;29(4):592-607. doi: 10.1002/bsl.995. Epub 2011 Jul 10.


The introduction of neuroscientific evidence in criminal trials has given rise to fears that neuroimagery presented by an expert witness might inordinately influence jurors' evaluations of the defendant. 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 (NGRI) defense. 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Decision Making
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroimaging*