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Paul Thagard

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190678722

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190678722.001.0001

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Wrongful Conviction and Criminal Responsibility

(p.292) 11 Law

Paul Thagard

Oxford University Press

The legal profession is a complex of mental and social mechanisms. Social cognitivism yields new ways of thinking about reasonable doubt, wrongful convictions, and criminal responsibility. Semantic pointer theories of cognition and emotion explain individual decisions, including defective ones that lead to wrongful convictions. Explanatory coherence shows how people can make judgments of guilt in accord with legal principles, and reasonable doubt based on the value of the presumption of innocence is a legitimate motivated inference. However, illegitimate motivated inferences resulting from emotional coherence with inappropriate values can produce biased and inaccurate verdicts. Moreover, the social interactions that operate in trials and other legal proceedings can naturally be explained using the semantic pointer theory of communication that mingles verbal and nonverbal modes while accommodating the interactions of cognitions and emotions.

Keywords:   coherence, communication, criminal responsibility, law, motivated inference, presumption of innocence, reasonable doubt, trial, wrongful conviction

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