Joseph Wszalek

Joseph Wszalek
Neuro & Law Candidate

Advisor :

Lyn Turkstra

Research Description:

In our Communication and Cognition Lab, we study social communication and social perception in individuals with and without acquired brain injuries (ABI). I'm interested in studying the effect of ABI-induced neuropsychological impairments on language perception and linguistic competence.

We're also interested in studying the effects of these impairments outside of the laboratory. One aspect of society noted (and perhaps somewhat notorious) for its linguistic complexities is law, and I am both fascinated and bemused by the incredible degree to which the legal system can control and manipulate language. We plan to investigate a small part of this phenomenon in a partnership with the Wisconsin Judicial Council. By using experimental stimuli based on language samples taken from judicial soliloquies, we hope to determine the level of cognitive and perceptual ability necessary to comprehend select legal instructions. Our ultimate goal is to study how adapted language can affect legal outcomes for individuals with ABI and other cognitive impairments.

 My research questions include:

Question #1 - What effects do social-cognitive impairments have on the comprehension of legal language in adjudicative proceedings?

Question #2 - What, if anything,  does the "social contract" framework suggest about the cognitive basis of legal transactions?

Question #3 - How do legal systems define and create mental states, and to what extent do these legal constructs overlap with corresponding scientific definitions?