Podcast: Manipulating Moral Judgment

Scientists find that when the area of the brain responsible for understanding the intent of others is disrupted, moral judgment is also affected. Christie Nicholson reports (Scientific American)

Play the Podcast here:
sa_p_podcast_100329 or from Scientific American’s website

The researchers disrupted the activity in this brain area using what’s called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). And they asked subjects to consider the morality of various acts. Some where the perpetrator had the intent to harm, others where they had no premeditation.

When subjects had their brains affected by TMS, they focused less on the intention of the perpetrator and more on the outcome of the act. Regardless of whether the protagonist wanted to poison their friend, if the friend was okay, then it wasn’t such a bad thing. As opposed to a lucky outcome after a heinous act.

The ultimate goal is to understand how the brain makes moral judgments. Because the real world is often less black and white, where judgment is easy, than shades of gray.


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