|Reference code: ||PT/FB/BL-2006-064.04|
|Location: ||Arquivo PCA - Pasta 4/2006|
|Brain imaging study of the psychological antecedents and neural correlates of moral judgement|
|Publication year: ||2012|
Previous neuroimaging studies of moral dilemmas have suggested that different modes of moral deliberation have distinct neurobiological correlates: deontological, rule-based judgments have been associated with automatic, affect-laden moral intuitions; and utilitarian, utility-maximizing judgments with controlled cognitive processing. However, the respective contribution of content (deontological or utilitarian) and intuitiveness to moral judgement is still unclear, and the neural bases of moral intuitions remain obscure.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in healthy volunteers, we investigated the neural bases of counterintuitive moral judgements, while controlling for the content of these judgments (utilitarian versus non-utilitarian). More specifically, we investigated the relationship between the effort required to arrive at a moral judgement, as reflected by behavioural and neural responses during moral decision-making, and two personality traits, each potentially reflecting one of the two postulated pathways to counterintuitive moral judgment (cognitive effort or emotional deficit).
Counterintuitive judgements were perceived as more difficult than intuitive judgements, whereas there was no significant difference in perceived difficulty between utilitarian and deontological judgments. Further, we show that the difficulty of making counterintuitive moral judgments is reflected in activation in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC). Importantly, rACC activation during counterintuitive judgments of a specifically utilitarian character was negatively correlated with ‘psychoticism’, a trait associated with diminished affect and social awareness, but not with ‘need for cognition’, a trait reflecting preference for complex cognition.
At the neural level, the fMRI data suggest that previously reported differences in moral judgment are in fact largely due to their intuitiveness and not to their content.
Our data thus suggest that recent attempts to draw support for utilitarian ethics on the basis of research on the neuroscience of moral cognition are premature. More importantly, our findings provide evidence that counterintuitive moral judgment in healthy individuals can be based in two distinct neural mechanisms, and that the rACC is a key structure in moral cognition which can serve as a biomarker for these two pathways to moral judgment.
|Accessibility: ||Document does not exist in file|
|Secondary author(s): |
|Wiech, K., Kahane, G., Farias, M.|
|Document type: |
|Number of reproductions: |
|Shackel, N., Wiech, K., Kahane, G., & Farias, M. (2012). Brain imaging study of the psychological antecedents and neural correlates of moral judgement. In Aquém e além do cérebro. Behind and beyond the brain. Proceedings of the 9th Symposium of Fundação Bial (p. 4/63). Porto: Fundação Bial.|
|Indexed document: ||No|
|Keywords: ||Neuroimaging / Moral judgment / Decision-making / Cognition / Emotion|
Brain imaging study of the psychological antecedents and neural correlates of moral judgement