News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

CLBB Brief changes Mass. Eyewitness Testimony Law

Harnessing the current scientific consensus on the neuroscience of memory, CLBB recently contributed to a fundamental shift in the treatment of eyewitness identifications in Massachusetts courtrooms. CLBB partnered with the American Psychological Association to submit an Amicus Brief to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which outlined the latest neuroscientific understanding of eyewitness memory.

The brief addressed the misconception that human memory may work like a video camera and rejected the notion that witnesses who are highly confident in their identifications are therefore necessarily reliable. It outlined research demonstrating that a witness’s viewing of the same suspect in multiple identification procedures lowers the reliability of subsequent identifications and research regarding the effect of stress on the ability to recall past events. The Court embraced the core arguments presented in the Amicus brief, namely that these scientific principles regarding the limits of eyewitness identification are so well established that in appropriate cases, juries should be explicitly instructed about these limitations. Continue reading »

Are adolescents less mature than adults?: minors’ access to abortion, the juvenile death penalty, and the alleged APA “flip-flop”

The American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) stance on the psychological maturity of adolescents has been criticized as inconsistent. In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Roper v. Simmons (2005), which abolished the juvenile death penalty, APA described adolescents as developmentally immature. In its amicus brief in Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990), however, which upheld adolescents’ right to seek an abortion without parental involvement, APA argued that adolescents are as mature as adults. The authors present evidence that adolescents demonstrate adult levels of cognitive capability earlier than they evince emotional and social maturity. On the basis of this research, the authors argue that it is entirely reasonable to assert that adolescents possess the necessary skills to make an informed choice about terminating a pregnancy but are nevertheless less mature than adults in ways that mitigate criminal responsibility. The notion that a single line can be drawn between adolescence and adulthood for different purposes under the law is at odds with developmental science. Drawing age boundaries on the basis of developmental research cannot be done sensibly without a careful and nuanced consideration of the particular demands placed on the individual for “adult-like” maturity in different domains of functioning.

 

Read the full paper here.