Part I of this Article will examine plain-text selections of legal language concerning mental competency from the constitutions, codes, or relevant decisions by the highest national courts, of three countries: the United States, Germany, and Japan. As three of the biggest economic powers on the planet, these countries merit consideration not just for their contrasting cultural and legal frameworks but also for their relative influence within the international arena during the latter half of the twentieth century. Part I’s examination will focus on constitutional and code language for two important reasons: (1) these sources of law form the basis of the country’s legal system, and serve as the foundation for other, more specific forms of legislation; (2), as the highest form of the country’s primary law, they serve as the legal standard against which all the other laws are evaluated. Next, Part II will examining the relevant language and argue that a certain set of cognitive functions, social-cognitive functions, most likely underlie these strictly legal definitions. Finally, Part III will briefly examine how effectively these definitions convey the prevailing scientific standard and consider what changes, if any, could be made to the current definitions of mental competency in the United States to better reflect both these prevailing scientific standards and the foreign definitions.

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