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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Available from: Arno Villringer, Oct 08, 2015
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    • "Because Korean participants have taken moral education classes for nine to twelve years during their childhood and adolescence, they would habituate formal moral problem solving, and it would be reflected in significant neural activity in the brain region associated with familiarity (Han, Glover, & Jeong 2014). In addition, the enhanced moral competence was positively correlated with the decreased neural activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) associated with cognitive control (Prehn et al. 2008). Given this result, the enhanced moral competence that represents the habituated and trained moral judgment would change the neural substrate of cognitive control; it would also mean that a person who has successfully habituated and internalized sophisticated moral judgment does not experience significant emotional conflicts when she is solving moral dilemmas and does not have to strongly rely on the cognitive control process to protect a moral decision from other self-oriented ends. "
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    • "In previous lesion and neuroimaging studies, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and temporal-parietal junction (TPJ), among other areas, were found to be involved in moral decision-making (Greene et al., 2001, 2004; Heekeren et al., 2005; Mendez et al., 2005; Ciaramelli et al., 2007; Koenigs et al., 2007, 2008; Moll and de Oliveira-Souza, 2007; Young and Koenigs, 2007; Kahane and Shackel, 2008; Prehn et al., 2008; Cushman et al., 2012). Decision making, reward processing, risk taking, and social cognition are often associated with processes in the DLPFC (e.g., Yamasaki et al., 2002; Forbes and Grafman, 2010; Mullette-Gillman et al., 2011; Essex et al., 2012; Hutcherson et al., 2012; Minati et al., 2012; Sokol-Hessner et al., 2012; Soo Cho et al., 2012; Steinbeis et al., 2012). "
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