Advances in cognitive neuroscience now allow us to use physiological techniques to measure and assess mental states under a growing set of circumstances. The implication of this growing ability has not been lost on the western legal community. If biologists can accurately measure mental state, then legal conflicts that turn on the true mental states of individuals might well be resolvable with techniques ranging from electroencephalography to functional magnetic resonance imaging. Therefore, legal practitioners have increasingly sought to employ cognitive neuroscientific methods and data as evidence to influence legal proceedings. This poses a risk, because these scientific methodologies have largely been designed and validated for experimental use only. Their subsequent use in legal proceedings is an application for which they were not intended, and for which those methods are inadequately tested. We propose that neurobiologists, who might inadvertently contribute to this situation, should be aware of how their papers will be read by the legal community and should play a more active role in educating and engaging with that community.
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