- Published: June 8, 2015
What would happen if policemen, lawyers and others involved in the business of justice had access to technology that could read the mind of a suspected criminal? What if they could not only determine that a suspected murderer hated the victim, but actually quantify the intensity of that hate? How could — and should — such information be used in the criminal justice system? These sorts of questions may have to be addressed in the not-too-distant future as scientists extend our understanding of how the brain works. For example, scientists at University College London recently published the results of a study that explored the Neural Correlates of Hate. The UCL team used fMRI to measure the brain activity of their subjects as they viewed faces of individuals they claimed to hate as well as individuals for whom they had neutral feelings. According to the investigators, the results point to several distinct brain regions that are activated in response to feelings of intense hatred (what some are calling the brain’s “hate circuit”) and suggest that “…there is a unique pattern of activity in the brain in the context of hate.” Professor Semir Zeki, a co-author of the report, is quoted as saying “The activity in some of these structures in response to viewing a hated face is proportional in strength to the declared intensity of hate, thus allowing the subjective state of hate to be objectively quantified. This finding may have legal implications in criminal cases, for example." One wonders whether Professor Zeki believes that evidence that a murderer hated his victim should be a mitigating or aggravating factor in sentencing.