Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Hot Baths and Cold Minds: Neuroscience, Mind Reading, and Mind Misreading

  • JOHN HARRIS and DAVID R. LAWRENCE

Abstract:

The idea—the possibility—of reading the mind, from the outside or indeed even from the inside, has exercised humanity from the earliest times. If we could read other minds both prospectively, to discern intentions and plans, and retrospectively, to discover what had been “on” those minds when various events had occurred, the implications for morality and for law and social policy would be immense. Recent advances in neuroscience have offered some, probably remote, prospects of improved access to the mind, but a different branch of technology seems to offer the most promising and the most daunting prospect for both mind reading and mind misreading. You can’t have the possibility of the one without the possibility of the other. This article tells some of this story.

Copyright

References

Hide All

Notes

1. Weil, S. The Iliad a poem of force. In: Meyer, P, ed. The Pacifist Conscience. Harmondsworth: Penguin; 1966, at 293.

2. Homer. The Iliad. Penguin Classics. Book XXII. Harmondsworth: Penguin; 1966:403–73, at 409.

3. One of the present authors talks about different aspects of this dimension of “la condition humaine” (apologies to André Malraux) in Harris J. Life in the cloud and freedom of speech. Journal of Medical Ethics 2013;39(5):307–11. doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100862.

4. See note 4, Homer 1966, at 406.

5. Wittgenstein L. Philosophical Investigations. Anscombe GEM, trans. Oxford: Basil Blackwell; 1968, Part IIxi, at 217. Because this is a translation, I have taken the liberty of improving on Elizabeth Anscombe’s grasp of English grammar.

6. With apologies to Dusty Springfield.

7. This turn of phrase is borrowed from Shakespeare’s Brutus: “Think not, thou noble Roman, That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome. He bears too great a mind” (Act 5, Scene 1). All Shakespeare quotations are from The Arden Shakespeare, Complete Works. Proudfoot R, Thomson A, Kastan DS, eds. Walton-On-Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons; 1998.

8. Cicero, De Oratore III, 221. In: Cicero on the Orator. Rackham Loeb H, trans. Classical Library. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press; 1942, at 177.

9. Tolstoy L. War and Peace. Maude L, Maude A, trans. London: Oxford University Press; 1965, Book VI, chap. XXIV, at 88.

10. Shakespeare W. Hamlet. In: Shakespeare 1998 (see note 6), Act 3, Scene 4, lines 89ff, at 316.

11. The name of this thane is not mentioned in the text. Macbeth himself subsequently assumes this title.

12. Shakespeare W. Macbeth. In: Shakespeare 1998 (see note 6), Act 1, Scene 4, lines 12ff, at 775.

13. Scare quotes are used not because Edward was rightly fearful but because the claim of Edward IV, his father, was in many ways also problematic, like that of all the Yorkists.

14. Shakespeare W. King Richard III. In: Shakespeare 1998 (see note 6), Act 4, Scene 2, line 8, at 726.

15. See note 13, Shakespeare 1998, line 21, at 726.

16. The discussion here follows lines elaborated in Harris 2012 (see note 3).

17. The Royal Society. Brain Waves 4: Neuroscience and the Law; 2011 Dec; available at http://royalsociety.org/policy/projects/brain-waves/responsibility-law/ (7 June 2014).

18. See also Bufkin J, Luttrell V. Neuroimaging and studies of aggressive and violent behavior. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 2005 Apr;6:176–91. Raine A, Yang Y. Neural foundations to moral reasoning and antisocial behavior. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 2006;1(3):203–13. Eastman N, Campbell C. Neuroscience and legal determination of criminal responsibility. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2006 Apr;7:311–18. Brown TR, Murphy ER. Through a scanner darkly: Functional neuroimaging as evidence of a criminal defendant's past mental states. Stanford Law Review 2010;62:1119–207.

19. Huettel, SA, Song, AW, McCarthy, G. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 2nd ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer; 2009, at 214220.

20. As originally presented here: Ogawa S, Lee TM, Nayak AS, Glynn P. Oxygenation-sensitive contrast in magnetic resonance image of rodent brain at high magnetic fields. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine 1990;14(1):68–78. See also Gibson WG, Farnell L, Bennett MR. A computational model relating changes in cerebral blood volume to synaptic activity in neurons. Neurocomputing 2007;70:1674.

21. Nishimoto, S, Vu, AT, Naselaris, T, Benjamini, Y, Yu, B, Gallant, JL. Reconstructing visual experiences from brain activity evoked by natural movies. Current Biology 2001;21(19):1641–6.

22. Shinkareva SV, Mason RA, Malave VL, Wang W, Mitchell TM, Just MA. Using fMRI brain activation to identify cognitive states associated with perception of tools and dwellings. PLoS ONE 2008;3(1):e1394.

23. Pasley BN, David SV, Mesgarani N, Flinker A, Shamma SA, Crone NE, et al. Reconstructing speech from human auditory cortex. PLoS Biology 2012;10(1) : e1001251. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001251.

24. Hassabis D, Spreng RN, Rusu AA, Robbins CA, Mar RA, Schacter DL. Imagine all the people: How the brain creates and uses personality models to predict behavior. Cerebral Cortex 2013:bht042.

25. Soon, C, Brass, M, Heinze, H, Haynes, J. Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nature Neuroscience 2008;11(5):543–5.

26. Spielberg S, director. Minority Report [film]. 20th Century Fox; 2002.

27. This research includes but is by no means limited to the studies cited in notes 7–10, and the following sources: Langleben DD, Moriarty JC. Using brain imaging for lie detection: Where science, law, and policy collide. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 2012;19(2):222–34. Kaylor-Hughes CJ, Lankappa ST, Fung R, Hope-Urwin AE, Wilkinson ID, Spence SA. The functional anatomical distinction between truth telling and deception is preserved among people with schizophrenia. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health 2011;21(1):8–20. Ito A, Abea N, Fujiia T, Uenoa A, Kosekia Y, Hashimotob R, et al. The role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in deception when remembering neutral and emotional events. Neuroscience Research 2011 Feb;69(2):121–8. Sip KE, Lynge M, Wallentin M, McGregor WB, Frith CD, Roepstorff A. The production and detection of deception in an interactive game. Neuropsychologia 2010;48(12):3619–26. Monteleone GT, Phan KL, Nusbaum HC, Fitzgerald D, Irick JS, Fienberg SE, Cacioppo JT. Detection of deception using fMRI: Better than chance, but well below perfection. Social Neuroscience 2009;4(6):528–38.

28. Spence, S. A., Hunter, M. D., Farrow, T. F., Green, R. D., Leung, D. H., Hughes, C. J., & Ganesan, V. (2004). A cognitive neurobiological account of deception: evidence from functional neuroimaging. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 359(1451):1755–62, at 1755.

29. Ganis G, Kosslyn SM, Stose S, Thompson WL, Yurgelun-Todd DA. Neural correlates of different types of deception: An fMRI investigation. Cerebral Cortex 2003;13(8):830–6, at 830.

30. Langleben DD, Schroeder L, Maldjian JA, Gur RC, McDonald S, Ragland JD, et al. Brain activity during simulated deception: An event-related functional magnetic resonance study. Neuroimage 2002;15(3):727–32, at 727.

31. Lee T, Liu HL, Tan LH, Chan CCH, Mahankali S, Feng CM, et al. Lie detection by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Human Brain Mapping 2002;15(3):157–64, at 161.

32. Ganis G, Rosenfeld JP, Meixner J, Kievit RA, Schendan HE. Lying in the scanner: Covert countermeasures disrupt deception detection by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroimage 2011;55(1):312–19.

33. Meixner JB. Liar, liar, jury’s the trier? The future of neuroscience-based credibility assessment in the court. Northwestern University Law Review 2012;106(3):1451.

34. Farwell LA, Smith SS. Using brain MERMER testing to detect knowledge despite efforts to conceal. Journal of Forensic Science 2001 Jan;46(1):135–43.

35. See note 32, Meixner 2012, for an overview of error rates in a range of EEG studies.

36. The full litany of objections to the inclusion of the evidence makes for entertaining reading. United States v. Semrau, 2010 WL 6845092 (W.D. Tennessee, June 1, 2010).

37. The rejection included the careful rejoinder that “beyond [the expert]’s affidavit we have no real evidence that Brain Fingerprinting has been extensively tested.” Slaughter v. State, 105 P.3d 832, 834–36 (Oklahoma Criminal App. 2005).

38. Natu N. This brain test maps the truth. The Times of India 2008 July 1; available at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/This-brain-test-maps-the-truth/articleshow/3257032.cms?referral=PM (last accessed 6 June 2014).

39. Wordsworth W. The Sonnet (ii). In: Quiller-Couch A, ed. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900; 1919; available at http://www.bartleby.com/101/534.html (last accessed 28 May 2014).

40. Here again discussion follows lines elaborated in Harris 2012 (see note 3).

41. Empson W. Seven Types of Ambiguity. Rev. ed. Chatto & Windus; 1970 [1930], chap. 1, at.1

42. See note 3, Harris 2012, at 409.

43. Copley C, Hirschler B. Novartis challenges UK Avastin use in eye disease. Reuters 2012 Apr 24; available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/24/us-novartis-britain-idUSBRE83N0GM20120424. The page view data was obtained from Vocus (www.vocuspr.com/uk), the University of Manchester’s media monitoring service (subscription required for access), 2012 May 1.

44. Sample I. Governments pose greatest threat to internet, says Google’s Eric Schmidt. The Guardian 2012 May 23; available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/may/23/google-fund-teachers-computer-science-uk (last accessed 3 June 2014).

45. European Court of Justice Judgement, Case C-131/12 ECLI:EU:C:2014:616, 13 May 2014. Full text available at http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=9ea7d2dc30d5cfb78416675447019937a19787b77870.e34KaxiLc3qMb40Rch0SaxuNbxr0?text=&docid=152065&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=124853 (last accessed 6 June 2014). See also Google sets up “right to be forgotten” form after EU ruling. BBC News 2014 May 30; available athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27631001 (last accessed 3 June 2014).

46. Harris J. Intimations of immortality. Science 2000 Apr;288(5463): 59. Harris J. Intimations of immortality—The ethics and justice of life extending therapies. In: Freeman M, ed. Current Legal Problems. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2002:65–97.

47. Schneier B. Cybersecurity, scientific data and public trust. The Royal Society. H5N1 Research: Biosafety, Biosecurity and Bioethics; available at http://www.voiceprompt.co.uk/royalsociety/030412/# (last accessed 25 June 2014).

48. See note 46, also available at https://royalsociety.org/events/2012/viruses/ (last accessed 3 June 2014).

49. Although developed in 2011 ostensibly as a means of raising awareness of the ease of cyberstalking, Creepy is still available freely from http://creepy.en.softonic.com/ (last accessed 6 June 2014).

50. A simple Internet search for “examples of cyberbullying on social networking sites” raises around 368,000 results from media outlet sites. They are perhaps best summed up in this article from the BBC: Harrison A. Cyber-bullying: Horror in the home. BBC News 2013 Aug 17; available athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23727673 (last accessed 6 June 2014).

52. Chai, S, Bagchi-Sen, S, Morrell, C, Rao, H, Upadhyaya, S. Internet and online information privacy: An exploratory study of preteens and early teens. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 2009;52(2):167–82, at 167.

53. Sum of Us. Facebook: Do Not Release Your New App Feature that Listens to Users’ Conversations; available at http://action.sumofus.org/a/Facebook-app-taps-phones/?akid=5478.2614652.96-Mk1&rd=1&sub=fwd&t=2 (last accessed 6 June 2014).

54. Mary Konye jailed for acid attack on Naomi Oni. BBC News 2014 Mar 21; available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-26680664 (last accessed 9 June 2014).

55. Cochrane K. Katie Piper: I asked Mum to kill me. The Guardian 2012 June 1; available at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/02/katie-piper-acid-attack-book (last accessed 9 June 2014).

56. Police are “incompetent,” says acid attack victim. BBC Radio 4 Today [interview with Naomi Oni]; 2014 March 24; available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01w49sq (last accessed 2 Apr 2014).

57. Collins D. Did acid burns victim attack herself? Police probe self-harm theory. Mirror 2013 Feb 25; available at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/naomi-oni-acid-burns-victim-1729522#ixzz347hivunu. (last accessed 5 Nov 2014).

The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the Wellcome Trust: WT087439—The Human Body: Its Scope, Limits and Future. This article was presented at the Neuroethics Network meeting at ICM (Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Épinière) in Paris, France, June 2014.

This section provides reactions to current and emerging issues in bioethics.

Keywords

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Hot Baths and Cold Minds: Neuroscience, Mind Reading, and Mind Misreading

  • JOHN HARRIS and DAVID R. LAWRENCE

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.