Project

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Reading Guilty Minds

English title Reading Guilty Minds
Applicant Kneer Markus
Number 179912
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution Ethik-Zentrum Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.12.2018 - 30.11.2022
Approved amount 828'173.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Philosophy
Psychology
Applied psychology

Keywords (7)

Knowledge; Legal Responsibility; Bias; Theory of Mind; Mens Rea; Intentionality; Mental State Ascription

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die strafrechtliche Verantwortlichkeit setzt zwei Elemente voraus: die Verwirklichung einer strafbaren Handlung (objektiver Tatbestand) und den Vorsatz (subjektiver Tatbestand). Das Projekt Guilty Minds erforscht systematische Verzerrungen (biases) in der Zuschreibung des Vorsatzes durch Laienrichter (USA, England) und professionelle Richter (Schweiz, Deutschland, Frankreich).
Lay summary

Die relevanten Geisteszustände werden zunächst aus der Perspektive der Philosophie des Geistes und den Rechtsgrundlagen der fünf Länder analysiert. In Phase II werden auf der Basis von Erkenntnissen der Moralpsychologie Verzerrung in der Vorsatzzuschreibung empirisch erforscht. Phase III konzentriert sich auf Strategien die Verzerrungen zu beheben, welche ebenfalls experimentell getestet werden. In Phase IV werden länderspezifische Vorschläge unterbreitet, um systematische Verzerrungen in strafrechtlichen Entscheidungen zu beheben. 

Das Projekt vereint Methoden und Erkenntnisse der Philosophie des Geistes, der Moral- und Sozialpsychologie, sowie der Rechtswissenschaften um das Strafrecht in der Alltagspraxis gerechter zu gestalten.  

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.12.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Implementations in Machine Ethics: A Survey
TolmeijerSuzanne, KneerMarkus, SarasuaCristina, ChristenMarkus, AbrahamBernstein, Implementations in Machine Ethics: A Survey, in ACM Computing Surveys, TBD.
On second thought: Reflections on the reflection defense
KneerMarkus, ColacoDavid, AlexanderJoshua, MacheryEdouard, On second thought: Reflections on the reflection defense, in Lombrozo Tania, Knobe Joshua, Nichols Shaun (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, ?.
Reasonableness on the Clapham Omnibus
KneerMarkus, Reasonableness on the Clapham Omnibus, in Janik Bartosz, Bystranowski Piotr, Prochnicki Maciej (ed.), Springer, Berlin, ?.
Success and Knowledge in Action
KneerMarkus, Success and Knowledge in Action, in Garbarczyk Pawel, Ciecierski Tadeusz (ed.), De Gruyter, Berlin, 129.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. James Beebe, Buffalo University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Francis Cheneval, Chair for Political Philosophy, UZH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel
PD Dr. Markus Christen, Center of Ethics, UZH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Prof. Sarah Summers, Law School, UZH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, Institut Nicod, ENS Paris France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Prof. Johann Ullrich, Chair of Social Psychology, UZH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
Dr. Gerhard Schäfer, ehemaliger vorsitzender Richer, Bundesgerichtshof Karlsruhe Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Thomas Nadelhoffer, College of Charleston United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Joshua Knobe, Experimental Philosophy Lab, Yale University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Peter Schaber, Chair for Applied Ethics, UZH Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Dr. Julien Jeanneney, Faculty of Law, Sorbonne, Paris France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Prof. Edouard Machery, Dep. of History & Philosophy of Science, Pittsburgh University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Research Colloquium Prof. Cheneval Individual talk The Knobe effect as an instance of a severity effec 14.10.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Garcia Olier Jan Alejandro;
X-Phi Under Quarantine Speakers Series Individual talk On second thought: Reflections on the reflection defense 21.08.2020 Wellington, New Zealand Kneer Markus;
European Online Conference in Experimental Philosophy Talk given at a conference Are Morally Bad Agents More Culpable? (with N. Strohmeier) 21.06.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Kneer Markus;
European Online Conference in Experimental Philosophy Talk given at a conference Severity effect and probability priming – in search of debiasing methods (with I. Skoczen) 20.06.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Kneer Markus;
European Online Conference in Experimental Philosophy Talk given at a conference The Knobe effect as an instance of a severity effect 19.06.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Garcia Olier Jan Alejandro;
Research Colloquium Prof. Schaber UZH Individual talk Exploring the underpinnings of the duty to warn 08.04.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Garcia Olier Jan Alejandro;
Research Colloquium Prof. Schaber UZH Individual talk Success and Knowledge in Action 15.03.2020 Zürich, Switzerland Kneer Markus;
Research Colloquium Prof. Greco HU Berlin Individual talk Bias in the ascription of inculpalting mental states 12.12.2019 Berlin, Germany Kneer Markus;
IVR Worldcongress, SW15: Judicial Decision-Making: Integrating Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives Talk given at a conference Inaction, Negligence and the Duty to Warn: Empirical Data 09.07.2019 Lucerne, Switzerland Kneer Markus;
Experimental Jurisprudence Online Speaker Series (w. I. Skoczen) Individual talk Severity effect and probability priming – in search of debiasing methods 05.06.2019 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Kneer Markus;
Research Colloquium Prof. Schaber UZH Individual talk Blame, Regret, and Assessment-Sensitivity (w. J. Viehoff) 25.02.2019 Zürich, Switzerland Kneer Markus;
Max Planck Institute for research on collective goods Research Seminar Individual talk Guilty Minds and Biased Minds 21.01.2019 Bonn, Germany Kneer Markus;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Epistemology in the Context of Criminal Law - Workshop with Prof. J. Lackey 09.12.2019 Zürich, Switzerland

Abstract

READING GUILTY MINDSA systematic inquiry into biases afflicting mens rea ascriptions Theory of mind is the capacity to ascribe mental states - knowledge, beliefs, intentions - to others and ourselves. This capacity is essential for our ability to explain, predict and evaluate behaviour. Just as for moral judgment, theory of mind is of key importance for the assessment of legal responsibility. An individual is legally responsible for a crime if she (i) causally brought about a harmful outcome (actus reus) and (ii) acted with a ‘guilty mind’ (mens rea). Four mens reas are particularly prominent in most systems of criminal law - intentionality, knowledge, recklessness and negligence - and they engender different degrees of culpability. In few other contexts are mental state ascriptions of similar consequence as in criminal jurisprudence, and so it stands to reason to ensure that our practices of mens rea attribution are reliable and lead to just verdicts. The project aims to systematically investigate sources of pervasive bias in the ascription of legally inculpating states of mind, and to devises strategies that help alleviate such biases. It is divided into four parts. Part I establishes the project’s three-fold foundations: It elucidates (a) the notions of criminal responsibility and mens rea from the perspective of philosophy and legal theory, and explores (b) the legal status quo in the criminal law of Switzerland, France, Germany, the UK and the US. More particularly, it surveys which mental states are of importance for the ascription of legal responsibility, and how they are defined in the different systems. The final stage of Part I turns (c) to the empirical literature on relevant biases in mental state ascription and the assessment of responsibility, drawing particularly on recent moral psychology. Parts II and III, which are dedicated to empirical work, jointly constitute the centrepiece of the project. Part II investigates experimentally whether the attribution of mental states relevant for criminal jurisprudence is afflicted by pervasive biases. Part III assesses empirically what types of measures help alleviate biases in mens rea ascriptions. The experiments will work with different sample populations - laypeople and legal experts - since the targeted countries have different systems and procedures. Whereas in Switzerland, for instance, criminal trials are decided by professional judges, Anglophone countries such as the UK and the US have a juror system. Part IV will evaluate the findings and advance concrete recommendations of how criminal jurisprudence could be improved so as to guarantee the presumption of innocence, as well as fair and equal trial conditions for all. The project breaks new ground in several respects: Though there is a considerable number of empirical studies concerning all-things considered judgments invoking variables such as blame and culpability, little work has been done on the attribution of mens rea, a core component of blame and culpability. What is more, the experiments will target both laypeople and legal professionals, whose capacity of mens rea ascription has to date received next to no attention. Finally, the three comparative dimensions of the project - lay jury system v. professional judge system; the different legal codes of Switzerland, France, Germany, the UK and the US; uninitiated subjects v. legal experts - will provide comprehensive insight from which precise, system-specific lessons can be drawn. The project output will consist in publications of the empirical findings and theoretical implications in top-tier academic journals, as well as a detailed final report recommending concrete improvements in the criminal trial procedure for the targeted countries.
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