David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Sylvia Terbeck, Guy Kahane, Sarah McTavish, Julian Savulescu, Neil Levy, Miles Hewstone & Philip Cowen
Biological Psychology 92 (2):323-328 (2013)
Noradrenergic pathways are involved in mediating the central and peripheral effects of physiological arousal. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of noradrenergic transmission in moral decision-making. We studied the effects in healthy volunteers of propranolol (a noradrenergic beta-adrenoceptor antagonist) on moral judgement in a set of moral dilemmas pitting utilitarian outcomes (e.g., saving five lives) against highly aversive harmful actions (e.g., killing an innocent person) in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group design. Propranolol (40 mg orally) significantly reduced heart rate, but had no effect on self-reported mood. Importantly, propranolol made participants more likely to judge harmful actions as morally unacceptable, but only in dilemmas where harms were ‘up close and personal’. In addition, longer response times for such personal dilemmas were only found for the placebo group. Finally, judgments in personal dilemmas by the propranolol group were more decisive. These findings indicate that noradrenergic pathways play a role in responses to moral dilemmas, in line with recent work implicating emotion in moral decision-making. However, contrary to current theorising, these findings also suggest that aversion to harming is not driven by emotional arousal. Our findings are also of significant practical interest given that propranolol is a widely used drug in different settings, and is currently being considered as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in military and rescue service personnel.
|Keywords||Moral judgment Utilitarian judgment Moral dilemmas Neuroscience of ethics Emotion|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
Guy Kahane, Katja Wiech, Nicholas Shackel, Miguel Farias, Julian Savulescu & Irene Tracey (2012). The Neural Basis of Intuitive and Counterintuitive Moral Judgement. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 7 (4):393-402.
Katja Wiech, Guy Kahane, Nicholas Shackel, Miguel Farias, Julian Savulescu & Irene Tracey (2013). Cold or Calculating? Reduced Activity in the Subgenual Cingulate Cortex Reflects Decreased Emotional Aversion to Harming in Counterintuitive Utilitarian Judgment. Cognition 126 (3):364-372.
Guy Kahane & Nicholas Shackel (2010). Methodological Issues in the Neuroscience of Moral Judgement. Mind and Language 25 (5):561-582.
Guy Kahane (2012). On the Wrong Track: Process and Content in Moral Psychology. Mind and Language 27 (5):519-545.
Joshua D. Greene (2012). Reflection and Reasoning in Moral Judgment. Cognitive Science 36 (1):163-177.
Joseph M. Paxton & Joshua D. Greene (2010). Moral Reasoning: Hints and Allegations. Topics in Cognitive Science 2 (3):511-527.
John Mikhail (2011). Emotion, Neuroscience, and Law: A Comment on Darwin and Greene. Emotion Review 3 (3):293-295.
Elizabeth J. Horberg, Christopher Oveis & Dacher Keltner (2011). Emotions as Moral Amplifiers: An Appraisal Tendency Approach to the Influences of Distinct Emotions Upon Moral Judgment. Emotion Review 3 (3):237-244.
Philippa Foot (2002). Moral Dilemmas and Other Topics in Moral Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
Christopher W. Gowans (1994). Innocence Lost: An Examination of Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing. Oxford University Press.
Shaun Nichols & Ron Mallon (2006). Moral Dilemmas and Moral Rules. Cognition 100 (3):530-542.
Jurriaan De Haan (2001). The Definition of Moral Dilemmas: A Logical Problem. [REVIEW] Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 4 (3):267-284.
Peter Vallentyne (1989). Two Types of Moral Dilemmas. Erkenntnis 30 (3):301 - 318.
Added to index2012-11-10
Total downloads14 ( #122,731 of 1,139,979 )
Recent downloads (6 months)5 ( #39,122 of 1,139,979 )
How can I increase my downloads?