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Legal Responsibility and PNB Genetics

This project investigates the impact of PNB genetic information at the societal level in adjudicatory contexts, such as courtrooms. Our goal is to understand how such information may affect perceptions of autonomy and responsibility for behavior. Prevention and punishment of crime are major societal concerns, and some genetics research has suggested that genetic factors partially help explain patterns of violent criminal behavior in some families. Already, the legal profession is aware of the data and has begun to explore its implications for the criminal justice system, although the appropriateness of such use is heavily debated. In our pilot work, we gathered empirical data on how members of the general public view genetic data and its application to determinations of guilt and sentencing decisions. Now, we are expanding our sample size and collecting new data on public attitudes towards the use of behavioral genetic evidence in the criminal law, as well as on public attitudes towards the use of behavioral genetic evidence in juvenile, informal adjudicatory, and everyday contexts.

This project is led by Dr. Paul Appelbaum