BRAIN, EMOTION, AND MORAL JUDGEMENT

Fransisca Ting

Abstract


The dual process theory posits that people relies on their emotion (especially negative
emotions) when they are faced with personal moral dilemmas, such as pushing a person off a
footbridge in order to stop a trolley that would otherwise kill five people. In an fMRI
investigation, the medial frontal gyrus, posterior cingulate gyrus, and bilateral angular gyrus
are more activated in considering a personal moral dilemma, leading them to make a
characteristically deontological judgment. On the other hand, people are less emotionally
engaged in non‐personal moral dilemmas, leading them to be more consequentialist in their
judgment. Empathy is argued to be a salient moral emotion that could alter one’s moral
judgment in moral dilemmas. Specifically, when judging about the permissibility of a person’s
proposed action, the subjects will judge those they empathize with less harshly, and when they
themselves have to make the decision, they will tend to save the party they empathize with
across dilemmas.


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DOI: 10.22146/bpsi.11537

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