Impulsive versus premeditated aggression: implications for mens rea decisions.

Research paper by Ernest S ES Barratt, Alan R AR Felthous

Indexed on: 23 Sep '03Published on: 23 Sep '03Published in: Behavioral Sciences & the Law


Science can provide more information about the nature of aggressive acts, and therefore the mens rea of criminal offenses, than is commonly assumed. For example, progress has been made in classifying aggression as impulsive or premeditated within the context of the role of conscious experience in controlling behavior. This review of the status of the scientific ability to distinguish conscious from unconscious acts and more specifically impulsive from premeditated aggressive acts is organized around four themes: (i) How is aggression defined and measured in general? (ii) How does the distinction between impulsive and premeditated aggression relate to the legal concept of mens rea? (iii) How do various scientific disciplines contribute to the mind/body discourse? (iv) What risk factors are associated with impulsive and premeditated aggression respectively? The authors conclude that the most promising approach to researching the nature of behavioral intention and motivation is to apply a discipline neutral model that integrates the data from multiple disciplines, collectively designated the cognitive neurosciences.