Neuroscience and lawyers: amygdala high-jacks in jurisprudes?

Lawyers, like all humans, are much less rational than they think they are. Blame it on our neural circuitry.

Sights and sounds enter the brain at its primitive stem and travel through the limbic system before they reach the more recently-evolved frontal lobes. There we make sense of our world and its stimuli through (presumably) rational thought.

The amygdala, a pecan-shaped organ deep in the brain’s oldest portion, responds most quickly, generally with fear and excitement and a rush of hormones. If it goes crazy and over-reacts to a stimulus, someone has dubbed that “amygdala high-jack.” Stated bluntly, we feel before we think. More bluntly, how we react at instinctive levels shape whether and how we think at all.

All of us, including in-house counsel, have been dealt this hand. Primitive parts of our brain exert an astonishing amount of influence over the clear-headed, cool and collected selves we fancy ourselves to be.

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