Community Standards of Criminal Liability and the Insanity Defense

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Compared lay standards of insanity to standards incorporated in American legal codes. In Exp 1, 21 undergraduates evaluated 9 case vignettes which provided only legally relevant information about defendants' degrees of impairment in cognition or in behavioral control. Ss' judgments of criminal liability or not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) reflected an exculpatory standard of substantial impairment in both cognition and control. In Exp 2, 50 undergraduates evaluated 10 case vignettes that provided realistic information about defendants' psychiatric diagnoses; Ss inferred levels of cognitive and control impairment. Ss made highly idiosyncratic inferences based on diagnostic categories, but once made, these inferences predicted NGRI judgments. Implications of the concordance between laypeople's rules for assigning NGRI verdicts and the rules used in American legal codes are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


insanity, community standards

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Law and Human Behavior