Nature 446 (7138):908-911 (2007)

Authors
Ralph Adolphs
California Institute of Technology
Abstract
The psychological and neurobiological processes underlying moral judgement have been the focus of many recent empirical studies1–11. Of central interest is whether emotions play a causal role in moral judgement, and, in parallel, how emotion-related areas of the brain contribute to moral judgement. Here we show that six patients with focal bilateral damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a brain region necessary for the normal generation of emotions and, in particular, social emotions12–14, produce an abnor- mally ‘utilitarian’ pattern of judgements on moral dilemmas that pit compelling considerations of aggregate welfare against highly emotionally aversive behaviours (for example, having to sacrifice one person’s life to save a number of other lives)7,8. In contrast, the VMPC patients’ judgements were normal in other classes of moral dilemmas. These findings indicate that, for a selective set of moral dilemmas, the VMPC is critical for normal judgements of right and wrong. The findings support a necessary role for emotion in the generation of those judgements.
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References found in this work BETA

The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail.Jonathan Haidt - 2001 - Psychological Review 108 (4):814-834.

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Person as Scientist, Person as Moralist.Joshua Knobe - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.

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