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Concept/Content neurological basis of moral thinking and feeling / fMRI of "moral judgment" brain activity
"Brain areas (indicated by Brodmannís area (BA)) exhibiting differences in activity in response to personal moral dilemmas as compared with impersonal and non-moral dilemmas. Areas exhibiting greater activity for personal moral dilemmas (as compared with impersonal and non-moral): medial frontal gyrus (BA 9/10); posterior cingulate gyrus (BA 31); superior temporal sulcus, inferior parietal lobe (BA 39). Areas exhibiting greater activity for impersonal moral dilemmas (as compared with personal): dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA 46); parietal lobe (BA 7/40). Images are reversed left to right according to radiologic convention." (Green and Haidt 2002).
Information caption In recent years, neurological imaging techniques especially have proven useful in monitoring brain activity of subjects in the midst of moral thinking (here, an fMRI), helping to profile the neurological basis of moral thinking and feeling. Such studies show, significantly, that in practice moral reasoning seems to involve both emotion and logic, providing a context for interpreting long-standing debates among philosophers about which is (or should be) primary in moral judgment (Greene and Haidt 2002).
Inquiry caption Here is an fMRI showing brain areas used by a subject engaged in thinking about a personal (rather than impersonal) moral problem. Such neurological imaging techniques have proven useful in recent years in monitoring brain activity related to moral thinking and feeling. Such studies seem to show that, in practice, moral thinking seems to involve both emotion and logic. Philosophers have disagreed for centuries about which is (or should be) primary in moral judgment. In what ways might these studies contribute to interpreting that long-standing debate?
Target Concept: Moral thinking and feeling have a neurological basis.
Source Greene et al (2001).
Credit Courtesy of Joshua D. Greene and with permission from AAAS.
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