The  EVOLUTION  of  MORALITY IMAGE 18B-2   
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Concept/Content neurological basis of moral thinking and feeling / brain localization map
"Neuroimaging studies have linked several brain regions to moral cognition. Disruptions to the right temporoparietal junction (brown), which is involved in understanding intentions, or the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (green), which processes emotion, have been found to alter moral judgments. Greene and colleagues have suggested that activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (pink) signals conflict between emotion, reflected by activity in the medial frontal gyrus (blue) and other areas (orange, brown), and "cold" cognition, reflected by activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (yellow)." (Miller 2008. p.737)
Information caption Neurological imaging techniques have proven useful in relating brain activity in certain areas to specific dimensions of moral thinking. For example, the ventromedial prefontal cortex (green) shows activity when subjects view images that evoke moral impressions but do not require any actual moral judgment. This area has been proposed as part of a network involving feelings related to social interactions. People with damage to this area (such as Phineas Gage) are less able to integrate emotional information into judgments that also involve an analysis of costs and benefits, and their conclusions reflect a corresponding bias. By comparison, when moral reflection turns to interpreting and assessing other people's intentions, the key brain area seems to be the right temporoparietal junction (brown). When moral problems become personal, the medial frontal gyrus (blue) becomes more active. More abstract or hypothetical problems, by contrast, tend to activate the dorsolateral prefontal cortex (yellow) and other areas. When such different forms of thinking conflict, as one often finds in moral dilemmas, activity rises in the anterior cingulate cortex (pink) perhaps serving a mediator role. The posterior cingulate (orange) seems involved in integrating emotions, imagery and memory, especially import to coherent narratives. Thinking in terms of a single "moral organ" thus seems inappropriate. As initially sketched by Darwin, multiple faculties seem involved, distributed throughout the brain. Indeed, all regions active in moral thinking have been implicated in other, non-moral mental processes. None seems devoted exclusively to moral thinking (Damasio et al 1994; Greene and Haidt 2002; Miller 2008).
Inquiry caption Neurological imaging techniques have proven useful in mapping specific dimensions of moral thinking and feeling to certain areas of the brain. For example, the ventromedial prefontal cortex (green) shows activity when subjects view images that evoke moral impressions but do not require any actual moral judgment. This area has been proposed as part of a network involving feelings related to social interactions. People with damage to this area (such as Phineas Gage) are less able to integrate emotional information into judgments that also involve an analysis of costs and benefits, and their conclusions reflect a corresponding bias. By comparison, when moral reflection turns to interpreting and assessing other people's intentions, the key brain area seems to be the right temporoparietal junction (brown). When moral problems become personal, the medial frontal gyrus (blue) becomes more active. More abstract or hypothetical problems, by contrast, tend to activate the dorsolateral prefontal cortex (yellow) and other areas. When such different forms of thinking conflict, as one often finds in moral dilemmas, activity rises in the anterior cingulate cortex (pink) perhaps serving a mediator role. The posterior cingulate (orange) seems involved in integrating emotions, imagery and memory, especially import to coherent narratives. All these regions have been implicated in other, non-moral mental processes (Damasio et al 1994; Greene and Haidt 2002; Miller 2008).What does this imply for the notion of a single "moral organ"? How should we characterize the nature of moral thinking (as compared to other types of thinking)?
Target Concept: Moral thinking and feeling have a neurological basis.
Source Miller (2008)
Artist K. Sutliff
Credit Image by K. Sutliff. From Miller (2008). Reproduced with permission from AAAS.
SIZE in pixels [file size] 450x180

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