Are we in Control? Or do our brains run the show?

The question is a matter of hot debate, as research suggests that our choices may be subject to our own biology.

For instance, the brain’s frontal lobes, which are crucial for emotional regulation and self-control, are not well developed in adolescents. Because of this, in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for juveniles was unconstitutional, stating “parts of the brain involved in behavior control continue to mature through late adolescence.”

Politics aside, some in the neuroscience field are calling this type of opinion “naïve dualism.” To clarify, the concept is the belief that one’s actions are brought about EITHER by intentions OR by one’s brain’s biology, and that those two causes are categorically distinct.

So, asking “Was it personal choice or biology?” may be the wrong question—because ALL psychological states are also biological ones.

So at what point, if ever, can we “blame it on the brain?”

According to some, the answer might come down to the strength of cause and effect. If, hypothetically, only 1 percent of people with particular brain biology commit violence, typical personal responsibility would apply. But if 99 percent of them do, you might start to wonder how personally responsible one really is for what they do.

Put into context, someone with an abuse history may still be held responsible for his or her actions. But, a paranoid schizophrenic might not be.

Some neuroscientists say it’s crucial that, as a society, we learn to better understand the connection between biological causes and personal choice — not only for actions like crime but also for ordinary ones; such as maintaining exercise regimens, eating sensibly and saving for retirement.

According to one researcher “It’s important that we don’t succumb to the allure of neuroscientific explanations and let everyone off the hook.”

Still, as science advances, we will be faced with more decisions about when and how to hold people responsible for their behavior.

Thanks for watching. We look forward to hearing your thoughts, in the comments.