Law and Mind Sciences event this Thursday

April 12, 2010

FYI, the Project on Law and Mind Sciences is hosting a panel discussion this Thursday on moral biology, addressing specifically the question: How should developments in mind sciences and behavioral biology alter our understanding of law and morality?

See details below:

Thurs. April 15


Harvard Law School

Austin Hall, West Classroom

Free and Open to the Public

This panel discussion will examine how developments in evolutionary biology and the mind sciences should inform law, philosophy, and economics, focusing on subjects such as punishment, responsibility, racism, addiction, and cooperation. Participants will include

I. Glenn Cohen, Joshua Greene, William Fitzpatrick, Adina Roskies, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Thomas Scanlon

Co-sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center and the Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School,  the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, and the MacArthur Law and Neuroscience Project  with support from the Cammann Fund for Law and Medicine at Harvard.


Adding Music to Videos

April 11, 2010

FMA logoWe’ve been discussing what music to add to our videos and how. One great resource is the Free Music Archive. According to its website,

“The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads. … Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose, designed for the age of the internet. Every mp3 you discover on The Free Music Archive is pre-cleared for certain types of uses that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright laws that were not designed for the digital era.”

The FMA is affiliated with Jersey City-based freeform radio station WFMU and features 15 genres of music. The website has curators who filter through submissions to determine which pieces to upload, and visitors can listen to the full length and download anything that’s on the site.

FMA genres

Dear Obama: For SCOTUS decision, listen to your heart . . .

April 11, 2010

It’s official: Justice John Paul Stevens has announced that he will retire at the end of the term.  But Justice Stevens’ announcement signaled much more than the end of his honorable service; the announcement was, in effect, a signal that the Capitol should prepare for battle.  Warring factions – political parties, advocacy groups, lobbyists – have already sprung into action, releasing news releases, action messages, and flash reports excoriating one potential nominee or another.  (Political) war is coming.  And through all the chaos and cacophony of a Supreme Court nomination, one man must sift through a massive amount of chatter and make a decision.  President Obama must make a choice – a complex and sensitive choice, after healthcare reform and before the midterm election, with an inspired left and an apoplectic right.

Given the complexity and sensitivity of his task, perhaps Obama should gather all the information possible, view the situation from every angle, chew the decision over and over in his mind, ruminate and reflect – all part of a process of reaching the optimal political and moral decision.

Or, maybe he should just go with his gut.  After the jump, I introduce some classic research in cognitive science to explain why an emotional decision could be better than a holistic decision – even when a judicial nomination is at stake.

Read the rest of this entry »

Twelve Steps to Numeracy: A Rehab Program for Lawyers

March 22, 2010

If a Supreme Court justice stumbled upon our blog, I would not be surprised if the subject matter bored her.  Despite the tremendous value that the mind sciences could add to our legal jurisprudence – as we have been highlighting for almost a complete semester (!) – the typical justice appears unconcerned about what science has to say about the doctrine that the Court creates.  Moreover, even if the justice were interested in a certain scientific topic, it is doubtful that the justice would take the time to understand the topic thoroughly enough to employ the science in her judicial decision-making.  In fact, the entire enterprise of law appears to be deliberately non-scientific: judges, advocates, and scholars engage in the practice of argument, but rarely pay attention to whether their arguments are scientifically valid.

Professor David L. Faigman, however, is a rare breed of legal scholar: He is numerate.  That is, he has a social scientific background, he understands science, and he cares deeply about the plague of innumeracy that has infected the field of law.  In Legal Alchemy: the Use and Misuse of Science and the Law, for example, Professor Faigman suggests (perhaps somewhat facetiously) that scientifically-challenged juris doctors should enroll in “Innumerates Anonymous,” a twelve step program to cure innumeracy:

  1. I am an innumerate.
  2. The law needs the best science available or that could be made available.
  3. As a/an _____ (insert one: practicing attorney, professor, judge, administrator, legislator, or other), it behooves me to become familiar with science and the scientific culture in order to fulfill my professional obligations. . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Iceland: Land of unattended babies and free-roaming animals

March 21, 2010

Upon entering a shop in Reykjavik, Iceland—my spring break destination—one is likely to encounter a sign similar to this one at tourist shops.  More likely than not, the shopkeeper is not present, but is somewhere in the back, if not further off.  In less-touristy shops, the shopkeeper is also not present, but rather than a friendly admonition against stealing, a sign directs the shopper to a phone number (s)he can call if (s)he wants to buy something.  I never tried it, but presumably the shopkeeper would show up and make the sale.

Read the rest of this entry »

Summer School on Crime, Law, and Psychology in Prague, Czech Republic, July 3-10, 2010.

March 20, 2010

Prague via CC images

The Center for Public Policy is pleased to invite students to:

Summer School on Crime, Law and Psychology 2010 (CLP2010)

July 3-10, Prague

The organizer of European Summer/Spring Institute, Center for Public Policy, has teamed up with professors from the University of Aberdeen and Warwick University to launch a summer course for international students interested in the application of psychological approaches and research methods to criminal justice. The program aims to invite students of different backgrounds (psychology, legal studies, criminology and sociology), who are interested in the interrelatedness of crime, law and psychology and are willing to combine a challenging academic environment with the holiday excitement.

Students of CLP2010 will not only have an opportunity to listen to professors from the UK’s best Universities, but will also share their ideas and interests with practitioners during guest lectures and site visits. Last, but not least the participants of CLP2010 will have a chance to meet new friends and explore the magnificence of Prague during special events organized by the CLP2010 staff.

  • Learn more about the application of psychological knowledge to criminal law
  • Get involved into discussions with academics from the UK’s best Universities, practitioners and fellow students
  • Gain your own perspective on the role of psychology in criminal justice systems
  • Enjoy having fun with new friends from different parts of the world
  • Experience Prague – one of the most beautiful cultural and historical capitals in Central Europe

Early Bird Application Deadline: April 30, 2010

Final Application Deadline: May 15, 2010

Steal This Blog Post

March 12, 2010

As you might recall, a few weeks ago we discussed the possibility that excessive patenting was crowding out innovation.  On cue, Farhad Manjoo (a technology columnist) discusses the very same topic — and invokes some of the very same research — in “Patently Stupid.”  He specifically targets Apple for seeking patent protection over its multi-touch user interface — which is arguably not non-obvious technology.  It’s a quick read.

So, was he reading our blog?  No.  I would bet that it’s still just us.  Too bad for irony!