Neuroscience and Ideology: Why Science Can Never Supply a Complete Answer for Adolescent Immaturity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


For those who study adolescent development and the transition to adulthood, the lure of innovations in neuroscience is considerable. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) and CT scans offer the illusion of peering into the teen brain and discovering what many have long suspected - while all the parts are there, they are not necessarily fully connected. Innovations in neuroscience and adolescent decision-making say more about our existing decision-making processes than they do about the adolescents who are the subject of the decisions. This chapter argues that to resolve the issues about the role of neuroscience, we need to question the framework in which it arises. That is, the increasing complexity of scientific determinations raises issues of institutional capacity. Recognizing innovations in the science of adolescent development may change not so much our view of adolescence as the calculus underlying institutional functions. The chapter begins by describing the 'lure of neuroscience', that is, the promise and limitations of the scientific advances, comparing legal decision-making capacity in individual cases versus broader matters of constitutional doctrine or public policy, analysing the recent US Supreme Court decisions on the juvenile death penalty in such terms, and assessing the role of neuroscience in the different possible outcomes of that case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLaw and Neuroscience
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent Legal Issues
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191725227
ISBN (Print)9780199599844
StatePublished - May 1 2011


  • Adolescent development
  • Institutional capacity
  • Juvenile death penalty
  • Law
  • Neuroscience


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