Cognitive enhancement in the judiciary

Giovana Lopes


Abstract: Evidence shows that judicial decisions are prone to implicit biases, such as ingroup favoring, anchoring, base rate neglect, hindsight, and racial bias. Given the high stakes in judicial decision-making not only for the parties directly affected but for society in general, the question of improving the quality of these decisions is important. Judicial review, workload reduction, adequate legal education and training are some of the methods commonly pointed out to reach this goal. Judicial decision-making involves multiple tasks, each of which use various cognitive and emotional processes to different degrees. Albeit there are a growing number of investigations exploring the possibility of applying biotechnologies to enhance cognitive function, there is virtually no research exploring the possibility of using these techniques to enhance judicial cognition. Thus, this article aims to advance the discussion, investigating the ways in which cognitive enhancement could improve the quality of judicial decisions, and questioning whether there could be a moral duty for judges to undergo cognitive enhancement. The approach to the problem through the specific ethical framework of virtue jurisprudence reveals that it is possible to establish a common ground of values from which such a duty can be derived.

Keywords: cognitive enhancement, unconscious bias, judicial decision-making, neurolaw, virtue jurisprudence.

Resumo: As evidências mostram que decisões judiciais também estão sujeitas a vieses implícitos, como favoritismo intragrupo, ancoragem, inferências estatísticas, viés de retrospecto e racial. Dada a grande importância do processo de tomada de decisões judiciais, não apenas para as partes diretamente afetadas, mas também para a sociedade em geral, a questão de melhorar a qualidade dessas decisões é importante. Controle jurisdicional, redução da carga de trabalho, educação jurídica adequada e treinamento são alguns dos métodos comumente apontados para atingir esse objetivo. Embora haja um número crescente de investigações explorando a possibilidade de aplicar tecnologias para aprimorar a função cognitiva, praticamente não há pesquisas explorando a possibilidade de usar essas técnicas para aprimorar a cognição judicial. Assim, este artigo tem como objetivo avançar a discussão, investigando as formas pelas quais o aprimoramento cognitivo poderia melhorar a qualidade das decisões judiciais, e questiona se poderia haver um dever moral para os juízes se submeterem ao aprimoramento cognitivo. A abordagem do problema através do quadro ético específico da jurisprudência da virtude revela que é possível estabelecer um terreno comum de valores sobre os quais tal dever pode ser extraído.

Palavras-chave: aprimoramento cognitivo, viés inconsciente, tomada de decisão judicial, neurodireito, jurisprudência da virtude.


Human enhancement; Cognitive enhancement; Unconscious bias; Judicial decision-making; Neuroethics.


ABRAMS, David; BERTRAND, Marianne; MULLAINATHAN, Sendhil. Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race? Journal of Legal Studies. Vo. 41, Issue 2, 2012.

ATTIAH, Mark. The use of brain stimulation technology for cognitive enhancement and the potential for addiction. In: TER MEULEN, Ruud; MOHAMED, Ahmed; HALL, Wayne. (Org.). Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 150-163.

BAUMEISTER, Roy; MURAVEN, Mark; TICE, Dianne. Self-Control as a Limited Resource: Regulatory Depletion Patterns. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vo. 74, 1998.

BECK, Birgit. Conceptual and practical problems of moral enhancement. Bioethics. Vo. 29, Issue 4, 2015.

BLANK, Robert. Cognitive Enhancement: Social and Public Policy Issues. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

BOSTROM, Nick; ROACHE, Rebecca. Smart Policy: Cognitive Enhancement and the Public Interest. In: SAVULESCU, Julian; TER MEULEN, Ruud; KAHANE, Guy. (Org.). Enhancing Human Capacities. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pp. 137-149.

BRASS, Marcel; PERRINE, Ruby; SPENGLER, Stephanie. Inhibition of imitative behaviour and social cognition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. Vo. 364, 2009.

BUCHANAN, Allen. Better than Human: The promise and perils of enhancing ourselves. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

BUCHANAN, Allen. Beyond Humanity? The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

BUSHWAY, Shawn; OWENS, Emily; PIEHL, Anne. Sentencing Guidelines and Judicial Discretion: Quasi Experimental Evidence from Human Calculation Errors. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. Vo. 9, Issue 2, 2012.

CHANDLER, Jennifer; DODEK, Adam. Cognitive Enhancement in the Courtroom: The ethics of pharmacological enhancement of judicial cognition. In: JOTTERAND, Fabrice; DUBLJEVIC, Veljko. (Org.). Cognitive Enhancement: Ethical and Policy Implications on International Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 329-345.

CIMINO, Chapin. Virtue Jurisprudence. In: SNOW, Nancy. (Org.) The Oxford Handbook of Virtue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 621-639.

COECKELBERGH, Mark. Human Development or Human Enhancement? A Methodological Reflection on Capabilities and the Evaluation of Information Technologies. Ethics and Information Technologies. Vo. 13, 2011.

COLZATO, Lorenza; ARNTZ, Fréderique. Ritalin. In: COLZATO, Lorenza (Org.). Theory-driven approaches to cognitive enhancement. New York: Springer, 2017, pp. 71-82.

COLZATO, Lorenza; MEKERN, Vera; NITSCHE, Michael; SELLARO, Roberta. Transcranial alternating current stimulation. In: COLZATO, Lorenza (Org.). Theory-driven approaches to cognitive enhancement. New York: Springer, 2017, pp. 133-146.

CROCKETT, Molly; CLARK, Luke; HAUSER, Marc; ROBBINS, Trevor Robbins. Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. Vo. 107, Issue 40, 2010.

DANZIGER, S; LEVAV, L; AVNAIM-PESSO, L. Extraneous factors in judicial decisions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Vo. 108, Issue 18, 2011.

DECETY, Jean; SOMMERVILLE, Jessica. Shared representations between self and other: A social cognitive neuroscience view. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Vo. 7, Issue 12, 2003.

DWORKIN, Ronald. Law’s Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.

FARAH, Martha; SMITH, Elizabeth; ILIEVA, Irena; HAMILTON, Roy. Cognitive Enhancement. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science. Vo. 5, Issue 1, 2014.

FREGNI, Felipe; BOGGIO, Paulo; NITSCHE, Michael et al. Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation of prefrontal cortex enhances working memory. Experimental Brain Research. Vo. 166, Issue 1, 2005.

FRÖDING, Barbro. Virtue Ethics and Human Enhancement. New York: Springer, 2013.

FUKUYAMA, Francis. Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the biotechnology revolution. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002.

GAILLIOT, Matthew; BAUMEISTER, Roy. The Physiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control. Personality and Social Psychology Review. Vo. 11, 2007.

GLYNN, Adam; SEN, Maya. Identifying Judicial Empathy: Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women’s Issues? American Journal of Political Science. Vo. 59, Issue 1, 2015.

GULATI, Mitu; RACHLISNKI, Jeffrey; LANGEVOORT, Donald. Fraud by Hindsight. Northwestern University Law. Vo. 98, Issue 773, 2004.

GUTHRIE, Chris; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; WISTRICH, Andrew. Blinking on the Bench: How judges decide cases. Cornell Law Review. Vo. 93, 2007.

GUTHRIE, Chris; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; WISTRICH, Andrew. Inside the Judicial Mind. Cornell Law Review. Vo. 86, Issue 777, 2001.

GUTHRIE, Chris; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey. Insurers, Illusions of Judgment & Litigation. Vanderbilt Law Review. Vo. 59, 2006.

GUTHRIE, Chris; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; WISTRICH, Andrew. The Hidden Judiciary: An empirical examination of executive branch justice. Duke Law Journal. Vo. 58, 2015.

HALL, Wayne; STRANG, John. Challenges in Regulating the Use of Stimulant Drugs for Cognitive Enhancement in Normal Individuals. In: TER MEULEN, Ruud; MOHAMED, Ahmed; HALL, Wayne. (Org.). Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 294-301.

HABERMAS, Jurgen. The future of Human Nature. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003.

HOGARTH, Robin. Educating Intuition. Chigaco: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

HUTCHESON, Joseph. The Judgment Intuitive: The Function of the “Hunch” in Judicial Decision. Cornell Law Quarterly. Vo. 14, 1929.

DE JONGH, Reinoud. Overclocking the brain? The potential and limitations of cognition-enhancing drugs. In: TER MEULEN, Ruud; MOHAMED, Ahmed; HALL, Wayne. (Org.). Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 37-56.

JUTH, Niklas. Enhancement, Autonomy and Authenticity. In: SAVULESCU, Julian; TER MEULEN, Ruud; KAHANE, Guy. (Org.) Enhancing Human Capacities. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pp. 34-48.

KAHNEMAN, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

KAHNEMAN, Daniel; FREDERICK, Shane. Representativeness Revisited: Attribute Substitution in Intuitive Judgment. In: GILOVICH, Thomas; GRIFFIN, Dale; KAHNEMAN, Daniel. (Org.). Heuristics and Biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

KAHNEMAN, Daniel; TVERSKY, Amos. Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases. Science. Vo. 185, Issue, 4157, 1974.

KAMIN, Kim; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey. Ex Post ≠ Ex Ante: Determining Liability in Hindsight. Law and Human Behavior. Vo. 19, Issue 89, 1995.

KARIM, Ahmed; SCHNEIDER, Markus; LOTZE, Martin et al. The truth about lying: inhibition of the anterior prefrontal cortex improves deceptive behavior. Cerebral Cortex. Vo. 20, Issue 1, 2010.

KASS, Leon. Ageless Bodies, Happy Souls: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Perfection. New Atlantis. Vo. 1, 2003.

KLAMING, Laura; VEDDER, Anton. Brushing Up Our Memories. Can We Use Neurotechnologies to Improve Eyewitness Memory? Law, Innovation and Technology. Vo. 1, Issue 2, 2009.

LAPPI-SEPPÄLÄ, Tapio. Sentencing and Punishment in Finland: The Decline of the Repressive Ideal. In: TONRY, M; FRASE, R. (Org.). Sentencing and Sanctions in Western Countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

LEIFER, Denise; SAMPLE, Lisa. Do Judges Follow Sentencing Recommendations, or Do Recommendations Simply Reflect What They Want to Hear? An Examination of One State Court. Journal of Crime and Justice. Vo. 33, Issue 127, 2010.

LEITE, Jorge; CARVALHO, Sandra; FREGNI, Felipe; GONÇALVES, Oscar. Task-specific effects of tDCS-induced cortical excitability changes on cognitive and motor sequence set shifting performance. PLoS One. Vo. 6, Issue 9, 2011.

LEITER, Brian. Positivism, Formalism, Realism. Columbia Law Review. Vo. 99, Issue 1138, 1999.

LEVINSON, Justin; BENNETT, Mark; HIOKI, Koichi. Judging Implicit Bias: A National Empirical Study of Judicial Stereotypes Beyond Black and White. Florida Law Review. Vo. 69, 2017.

LUEKE, Adam; GIBSON, Bryan. Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Implicit Age and Race Bias: The Role of Reduced Automaticity of Responding. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Vo. 6, Issue, 2015.

MASSIE, Charles; YAMGA, Eric; BOOT, Brendon. Neuroenhancement: a call for better evidence on safety and efficacy. In: TER MEULEN, Ruud; MOHAMED, Ahmed; HALL, Wayne. (Org.) Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 57-68.

MAVEETY, Nancy. The Study of Judicial behavior and the Discipline of Political Science. In: MAVEETY, Nancy. (Org.). The Pioneers of Judicial Behavior. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.

MCKEOWN, Alex. Enhancement and therapy: Is it possible to draw a line? In: TER MEULEN, Ruud; MOHAMED, Ahmed; HALL, Wayne. (Org.) Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 193-212.

MUSTARD, David. Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Courts. Journal of Law and Economics. Vo. 44, Issue 285, 2001.

NEUBORNE, Burt. Of Sausage Factories and Syllogism Machines: Formalism, Realism, and Exclusionary Selection Techniques. NYU Law Review. Vo. 67, 1992.

NIELSEN, Lisbeth. The Concept of Nature and the Enhancement Technologies Debate. In: SAVULESCU, Julian; TER MEULEN, Ruud; KAHANE, Guy (Org.). Enhancing Human Capacities. New Jersey: Wiley- Blackwell, 2011, pp. 19-33.

NUSSBAUM, Martha. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

OHN, Suk; PARK, Chang-Il; YOO, Woo-Kyoung et al. Time-dependent effect of transcranial direct current stimulation on the enhancement of working memory. Neuroreport. Vo. 19, Issue 1, 2008.

PARENS, Eric. Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and social implications. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1998.

PARENS, Eric. Authenticity and Ambivalence: toward Understanding the Enhancement Debate. Hastings Center Report. Vo. 35, 2005.

RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; GUTHRIE, Chris; WISTRICH, Andrew. Can Judges Make Reliable Numeric Judgments? Distorted Damages and Skewed Sentences. Indiana Law Review. Vo. 90, Issue 2, 2015.

RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; GUTHRIE, Chris; WISTRICH, Andrew. Inside the Bankruptcy Judge’s Mind. Bostom University Law Review. Vo. 86, Issue 1227, 2006.

RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey. A Positive Psychological Theory of Judging in Hindsight. University of Chicago Law Review. Vo. 65, Issue 571, 1998.

RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; GUTHRIE, Chris; WISTRICH, Andrew. Does Unconscious Racial Bias Affect Trial Judges? Notre Dame Law Review. Vo. 84, Issue 3, 2009.

RODUIT, Johann; HEILINGER, Jan-Christoph; BAUMANN, Holger. Ideas of Perfection and the Ethics of Human Enhancement. Bioethics. Vo. 29, Issue 9, 2015.

RODUIT, Johann; HEILINGER, Jan-Christoph; BAUMANN, Holger. Human Enhancement and Perfection. Journal of Medical Ethics. Vo. 39, 2013.

RUBY, Perrine; DECETY, Jean. How would you feel versus how do you think she would feel? A neuroimaging study of perspective-taking with social emotions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Vo. 16, Issue 6, 2004.

SANDBERG, Andy. Cognition Enhancement: Upgrading the Brain. In: SAVULESCU, Julian; TER MEULEN, Ruud; KAHANE, Guy. (Org.). Enhancing Human Capacities. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pp. 71-91.

SANDEL, Michael. The case against perfection. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.

SANTIESTEBAN, Idalmis; BANISSY, Michael; CATMUR, Caroline; BIRD, Geoffrey. Enhancing social ability by stimulating right temporoparietal junction. Current Biology. Vo. 22, Issue 23, 2012.

SANTIESTEBAN, Idalmis; BANISSY, Michael; CATMUR, Caroline; BIRD, Geoffrey. Functional lateralization of temporoparietal junction-imitation inhibition, visual perspective-taking and theory of mind. European Journal of Neuroscience. Vo. 42, Issue 8, 2015.

SAVULESCU, Julian. In Defense of Procreative Beneficence. Journal of Medical Ethics. Vo. 33, Issue 5, 2007.

SAVULESCU, Julian. Well-being and Enhancement. In: SAVULESCU, Julian; TER MEULEN, Ruud; KAHANE, Guy. (Org.). Enhancing Human Capacities. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pp. 3-18.

SELLARO, Roberta; NITSCHE, Michael; COLZATO, Lorenza. Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. In: COLZATO, Lorenza. (Org.). Theory-driven approaches to cognitive enhancement. New York: Springer, 2017, 99-114.

DE SIO, Fillipo; FAULMÜLLER, Nadira; VINCENT, Nicole. How Cognitive Enhancement can Change our Duties. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. Vo. 8, Issue 131, 2014.

SNOWDEN, Sophie; CATMUR, Caroline. The role of the right temporoparietal junction in the control of imitation. Cerebral Cortex. Vo. 25, Issue 4, 2015.

SNYDER, Peter; BEDNAR, Martin; CROMER, Jennifer. Reversal of scopolamine-induced deficits with a single dose of donepezil, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Alzheimers and Dementia. Vo. 1, Issue 1, 2005.

SOLUM, Lawrence. Virtue Jurisprudence: A Virtue-Centred Theory of Judging. Metaphilosophy. Vo. 34, 2003.

SPENGLER, Stephanie; CRAMON, Yves von; BRASS, Marcel. Control of shared representations relies on key processes involved in mental state attribution. Human Brain Mapping. Vo. 30, Issue 11, 2009.

SPOHN, Cassia. The Effects of the Offender’s Race, Ethnicity, and Sex on Federal Sentencing Outcomes in the Guidelines Era. Law and Contemporary Problems. Vo. 76, 2013.

STANOVICH, Keith; WEST, Richard; TOPLAK, Maggie. The Cognitive Reflection Test as a Predictor of Performance on Heuristics-and-Biases Tasks. Memory & Cognition. Vo. 39, Issue 7, 2011.

Science and Technology Options Assessment European Parliament (STOA). 2009. Human Enhancement. Brussels: European Parliament.

TAJFEL, Henri; TURNER, John. An Integrative Theory of Intergroup Conflict. In: WORCHEL, Stephen; AUSTIN, William Austin. (Org.). The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Pacific Grove: Brooks Cole Publishing, 1979.

TERBECK, Sylvia; KAHANE, Guy; MCTAVISH, Sarah et al. Propranolol reduces implicit negative racial bias. Psychopharmacology. Vo. 222, Issue 3, 2012.

TERBECK, Sylvia; KAHANE, Guy; MCTAVISH, Sarah et al. Beta-adrenergic blockade reduces utilitarian judgment. Biological Psychology. Vo. 92, Issue 2, 2012.

VEDDER, Anton. An Obligation to Enhance? Topoi. Vo. 38, 2017. Doi:

VEDDER, Anton; KLAMING, Laura. Human enhancement for the common good: Using neurotechnologies to improve eyewitness memory. AJOB Neuroscience. Vo. 1, Issue 3, 2010.

VINCENT, Nicole. The Challenges Posed to Private Law by Emerging Cognitive Enhancement Technologies. FICHL Publications Series n° 11, 2011.

WILSON, James. Transhumanism and Moral Equality. Bioethics. Vo. 21, Issue 8, 2007.

WISTRICH, Andrew; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; GUTHRIE, Chris. Can Judges Ignore Inadmissible Information? The Difficulty of Deliberately Disregarding. University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Vo. 153, Issue 1251, 2005.

WISTRICH, Andrew; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey; GUTHRIE, Chris. Heart Versus Head: Do Judges Follow the Law or Follow Their Feelings? Texas Law Review. Vo. 93, 2015.

WISTRICH, Andrew; RACHLINSKI, Jeffrey. Implicit Bias in Judicial Decision Making: How it affects judgment and what judges can do about it. LawArXiv. 2017. Doi: 10.31228/

ZAEHLE, Tino; SANDMANN, Pascale; THORNE, Jeremy et al. Transcranial direct current stimulation of the prefrontal cortex modulates working memory performance: combined behavioural and electrophysiological evidence. BMC Neuroscience. Vo. 12, Issue 2, 2011.

Texto completo: PDF (English)

DOI: 10.17808/des.59.1785


  • Não há apontamentos.

Direitos autorais 2021 Revista Direito, Estado e Sociedade

Licença Creative Commons
Esta obra está licenciada sob uma licença Creative Commons Atribuição - Não comercial - Sem derivações 4.0 Internacional.

ISSN: 1516-6104