Individual differences in moral judgment competence influence neural correlates of socio-normative judgments

Department of Neurology, Neuroscience Research Center, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Campus Mitte, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 7.37). 04/2008; 3(1):33-46. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsm037
Source: PubMed


To investigate how individual differences in moral judgment competence are reflected in the human brain, we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, while 23 participants made either socio-normative or grammatical judgments. Participants with lower moral judgment competence recruited the left ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the left posterior superior temporal sulcus more than participants with greater competence in this domain when identifying social norm violations. Moreover, moral judgment competence scores were inversely correlated with activity in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during socio-normative relative to grammatical judgments. Greater activity in right DLPFC in participants with lower moral judgment competence indicates increased recruitment of rule-based knowledge and its controlled application during socio-normative judgments. These data support current models of the neurocognition of morality according to which both emotional and cognitive components play an important role.

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