An agent harms a victim: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study on specific moral emotions.
ABSTRACT The statement: "An agent harms a victim," depicts a situation that triggers moral emotions. Depending on whether the agent and the victim are the self or someone else, it can lead to four different moral emotions: self-anger ("I harm myself"), guilt ("I harm someone"), other-anger ("someone harms me"), and compassion ("someone harms someone"). In order to investigate the neural correlates of these emotions, we examined brain activation patterns elicited by variations in the agent (self vs. other) and the victim (self vs. other) of a harmful action. Twenty-nine healthy participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while imagining being in situations in which they or someone else harmed themselves or someone else. Results indicated that the three emotional conditions associated with the involvement of other, either as agent or victim (guilt, other-anger, and compassion conditions), all activated structures that have been previously associated with the Theory of Mind (ToM, the attribution of mental states to others), namely, the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, the precuneus, and the bilateral temporo-parietal junction. Moreover, the two conditions in which both the self and other were concerned by the harmful action (guilt and other-anger conditions) recruited emotional structures (i.e., the bilateral amygdala, anterior cingulate, and basal ganglia). These results suggest that specific moral emotions induce different neural activity depending on the extent to which they involve the self and other.
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ABSTRACT: The ability to figure out whether a person is being honest or deceitful is an important part of social competence. Reactions to deceit may however differ depending on whether one is being deceived oneself or observes a deceitful exchange between others. In the present study, we investigated whether personal involvement influenced the neural responses associated with the detection of deceit. Subjects watched videos of actors lifting a box and judged whether the actors had been misled about the real weight of the box. Personal involvement was manipulated by having the participants themselves among the actors. The critical finding was that there was activity in amygdala and fusiform gyrus only for the condition in which participants observed themselves being deceived. In contrast, the superior temporal sulcus and anterior cingulate cortex were activated irrespective of whether the participants detected that the experimenter had deceived themselves or another. These four brain areas are all interconnected and are part of the discrete neural system subserving social cognition. Our results provide direct evidence, using judgments of deceit in a social context, that the crucial factor for amygdala activation is the involvement of the subjects because they are the target of the deceit. We interpret the activation of the amygdala in this situation as reflecting the greater affective reaction when one is deceived oneself. Our results suggest that when one is personally involved, deceit is taken as a potential threat.NeuroImage 05/2006; 30(2):601-8. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: It is suggested that emotional states may be considered a function of a state of physiological arousal and of a cognition appropriate to this state of arousal. From this follows these propositions: (a) Given a state of physiological arousal for which an individual has no immediate explanation, he will label this state and describe his feelings in terms of the cognitions available to him (b) Given a state of physiological arousal for which an individual has a completely appropriate explanation, no evaluative needs will arise and the individual is unlikely to label his feelings in terms of the alternative cognitions available. (c) Given the same cognitive circumstances, the individual will react emotionally or describe his feelings as emotions only to the extent that he experiences a state of physiological arousal. An experiment is described which, together with the results of other studies, supports these propositions.Psychological Review 10/1962; 69:379-99. · 9.80 Impact Factor
Article: Self-projection and the brain.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: When thinking about the future or the upcoming actions of another person, we mentally project ourselves into that alternative situation. Accumulating data suggest that envisioning the future (prospection), remembering the past, conceiving the viewpoint of others (theory of mind) and possibly some forms of navigation reflect the workings of the same core brain network. These abilities emerge at a similar age and share a common functional anatomy that includes frontal and medial temporal systems that are traditionally associated with planning, episodic memory and default (passive) cognitive states. We speculate that these abilities, most often studied as distinct, rely on a common set of processes by which past experiences are used adaptively to imagine perspectives and events beyond those that emerge from the immediate environment.Trends in Cognitive Sciences 03/2007; 11(2):49-57. · 16.01 Impact Factor