How the Brain Picks Punishments

The Gas Chamber used for hydrogen cyanide poisoning punishment.
The Gas Chamber used for hydrogen cyanide poisoning punishment.

Burn him? Hang him? Or let him go? New research illuminates how the human brain decides the severity of a criminal’s punishment, scientists say.

Several brain regions do battle in determining the appropriate level of justice, depending on the person’s level of guilt, a study has found.

Often, people demand swift and severe punishment, particularly when the crime involves bodily harm to others and is relayed in gruesome detail. Yet certain brain regions can override this gut emotional response when the harm was not intentional, regardless of how shocking the incident was.