AJOB Neuroscience.

Ethical and Legal Concerns Associated With the Comprehension of Legal Language and Concepts

Because numerous standards and ethics rules underscore the importance of language and communication within the legal process, the inability to successfully comprehend legal language is a pressing concern, particularly because many populations that are overrepresented within legal systems typically show problems with language and communication. In order to better describe the nexus between language comprehension and the law, therefore, I identify four hierarchical aspects of legal language and concepts that may challenge the language-comprehension processes and impede comprehension: (1) the challenge to “lower level” cognitive functions; (2) the demand for inferences; (3) the need for complex situation models; and (4) the idiosyncratic nature of legal language’s text “genre.” Using common examples of black-letter law, I examine how these four aspects might create legal problems and ethical concerns for both the adjudicated individual and the representing attorney. This analysis should be a valuable first step in allowing the neurolaw and bioethics fields to better identify and research these important ethical dilemmas.

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Volume 8, Issue 1
March 2017

Editorial.