The Developmental Neuroscience of Moral Sensitivity

Emotion Review 3 (3):305-307 (2011)
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Though traditional accounts of moral development focus on the development of rational and deliberate thinking, recent work in developmental affective neuroscience suggests that moral cognition is tightly related to affective and emotional processing. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies show age-related changes in response to empathy-eliciting stimuli, with a gradual shift from the monitoring of somatovisceral responses in young children mediated by the amygdala, insula and medial aspect of the orbitofrontal cortex, to the executive control and evaluation of emotion processing implemented by the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in older participants. These data indicate that the development of moral reasoning involves the increasing integration of empathic emotion-related somatovisceral responses with more complex social-reasoning abilities



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