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Katherine Ramsland

“Philosophers and many proponents of cognitive psychology hold that moral judgments are within our control, and thus people who choose to commit crimes, barring delusions, know what they are doing and that it is wrong. The legal system depends on this notion. However, recent research suggests that damage to an area of the brain just behind the eyes can transform the way people make moral decisions. The results indicate that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, implicated in the feeling of compassion, may be the foundation for moral regulations, assisting us in inhibiting (or not) harmful treatment of others. Failure in its development, or damage to it, might alter the way a person perceives the moral landscape, which will thus affect his or her actions. If juries include information of this kind in their deliberations, it could mitigate the harshness of the sentences they impose on convicted criminals. While more research must be done, other types of brain scans are being entered as evidence in the trials of some heinous crimes to show that the perpetrator could not help what he did.”

Katherine Ramsland, The Devil's Dozen: How Cutting-Edge Forensics Took Down 12 Notorious Serial Killers
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