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Red States, Blue States, and Brain States: Issue Framing, Partisanship, and the Future of Neurolaw in the United States

By Francis X. Shen and Dena M. Gromet | The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science | March 2015


Advances in neuroscience are beginning to shape law and public policy, giving rise to the field of “neurolaw.” The impact of neuroscientific evidence on how laws are written and interpreted in practice will depend in part on how neurolaw is understood by the public. Drawing on a nationally representative telephone survey experiment, this article presents the first evidence on public approval of neurolaw. We find that the public is generally neutral in its support for neuroscience-based legal reforms. However, how neurolaw is framed affects support based on partisanship: Republicans’ approval of neurolaw decreases when neuroscience is seen as primarily serving to reduce offender culpability, whereas Democrats’ approval is unaffected by how neurolaw is framed. These results suggest that both framing and partisanship may shape the future of neuroscience-based reforms in law and policy.

Read the full paper here.