UO study suggests brain studies may reduce a person's belief in free will

Azim Shariff
Azim Shariff

If you've committed a crime, ask your lawyer to go for a jury filled with people recently educated about brain science. It seems, says UO psychologist Azim Shariff, learning about the brain has implications for attitudes related to morality and responsibility. Less blame might be placed on the transgressor.

The findings were published this week in in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Shariff's team included researchers from six other universities.

Their analyses, according to a news release issued by the journal, found that a reduction in blameworthiness accounted for a relationship between diminished belief in free will and lighter sentences.

Shariff and colleagues believe that their findings could have broad implications, especially in the domains of criminal justice and law. “There is no academic consensus on free will, but we already do see discussions of brain processes and responsibility trickling through the justice system and other social institutions — for better or worse,” Shariff said.

Read the full story at: Minimizing Belief in Free Will May Lessen Support for Criminal Punishment.

- by Jim Barlow, Public Affairs Communications