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Abstract and Figures

We applied thermography as a physiological marker of subjective experience during cognitive and emotional tasks, or moral dilemmas associated to terrorism decisions. In the experiments, thermograms of participants were recorded while they were solving terrorist moral dilemmas. We found significant correlations between changes in facial temperature and mental status. The direction of the thermal change depends on the nature of the reaction, flight (lower nose and hand temperature) or fight (unchanged or increased nose and hand temperature) response. These two thermal maps happened again in new terrorist moral dilemmas. Specifically, the temperature of the nose tended to decrease during emotional reactions but it tended to increase during rational reactions.
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Moral decisions and thermography
Jesús Fernández-Gómez
, Germán Gálvez-García,
, Alejandró Moliné
, Maria Teresa
, Claudio Bascour-Sandoval
, Juan José González-Quiñones
, and Emilio
Gómez Milán
1-Mind, Brain, and Behavior Research Center, University of Granada, Campus de la
Cartuja,s/n. 18071, Granada (España)
2-Department of Psychology. University of La Frontera. Av. Francisco Salazar 01145.
4780000. Temuco. Chile
3-Département de Psychologie Cognitive, Sciences Cognitives & Neuropsychologie,
Institut de Psychologie, Laboratoire d’Étude des Mécanismes Cognitifs, Université
Lyon 2, 5 Avenue Pierre Mendès France, 69500 Bron, France.
4- University of Granada, Campus de la Cartuja,s/n. 18071, Granada (España)
5- Carrera de Kinesiología, Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Autónoma de
Chile. Porvenir 572. 4780000. Temuco, Chile
Running head: Moral decisions and thermography
Declarations of interest: The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Acknowledgments: This research was partially supported by FONDECYT grant
(project 1160368) from CONICYT Chile
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Germán Gálvez-García,
Department of Psychology, Universidad de La Frontera, Av. Francisco Salazar 01145,
Casilla 54-D, Temuco, Chile. e-mail: Phone: +56 45
Moral decisions and thermography
We applied thermography as a physiological marker of subjective experience during
cognitive and emotional tasks, or moral dilemmas associated to terrorism decisions. In
the experiments, thermograms of participants were recorded while they were solving
terrorist moral dilemmas. We found significant correlations between changes in facial
temperature and mental status. The direction of the thermal change depends on the
nature of the reaction, flight (lower nose and hand temperature) or fight (unchanged or
increased nose and hand temperature) response. These two thermal maps happened
again in new terrorist moral dilemmas. Specifically, the temperature of the nose tended
to decrease during emotional reactions but it tended to increase during rational
Keywords: Thermography; moral dilemmas; terrorism.
Moral decisions and thermography
Thermography is a technique increasingly employed in the study of
psychological processes. As William James (1890, pp. 99-100) stated in Chapter 3 of is
classic work Principles of Psychology:
Brain-activity seems accompanied by a local disengagement of heat… He (S.
Lombard, 1867) noted the changes in delicate thermometers and electric piles
placed against the scalp in human beings, and found that any intellectual effort,
such as computing, composing, reciting poetry silently or aloud, and specially
that emotional excitement such as an anger fit, caused a general rise of
Thermography obtains a graphic record of the heat emitted through the surface
of the body in the form of infrared radiation (Clay-Waver & Robinson, 2015). This
serves to evaluate emotions and understand the emotional attachment involved (Ioannou
et al., 2013; Ioannou, Gallese, & Merla, 2014; Nhan & Chau, 2010; Shastri, Merla,
Tsiamyrtzis, & Pavlidis, 2009). The great sensitivity of the tip of the nose to different
emotional situations can be observed in the temperature changes occurring in that area
coinciding with emotions—making it a suitable reference for thermographic
measurement—while the much more stable temperature of the forehead makes it an
appropriate baseline.
Thermography, empathy and moral dilemmas
Emotion-related studies using thermography have been carried out previously
(see Salazar-López et al., 2015 for a review). It has been determined that the human
body experiences changes of temperature in correlation with empathy, but with
incongruent results. Salazar-López et al., (2015) found lower nose temperature with
higher empathy. But Moliné et al. (2018) found higher nose temperature with higher
empathy. This is a general problem in the relationship between thermographic measures
and subjective experience. (Ioannou et al., 2013; Kosogonov et al., 2017; Moliné et al.,
2017; Or & Duffy, 2007; Salazar-López et al., 2015; Shastri et al., 2009). In general,
lower nose temperature has been related to stress and increased sympathetic activity.
However, in other studies high arousal has been associated with increased nose
temperature in the case of negative emotions, empathy, lie detection, mental effort,
Moral decisions and thermography
crying, ostracism or direct gaze (Ioannou, Morris, et al., 2014; Ioannou, Morris, Baker,
& Gallese, 2016; Moliné,et al., 2018; Panasiti et al., 2016; Paolini, Alparone, Cardone,
van Beest, & Merla, 2016). Emotions and empathy are among the fundamental bases of
morality (Churchland, 2011; Greene & Haidt, 2002; Iacoboni, 2009). In regard to moral
conduct, we find ourselves with an emotional component on one hand and a rational
component on the other (Choe & Min, 2011; Everett, Pizarro, & Crockett, 2016;
Gleichgerrcht & Young, 2013; Greene, Morelli, Lowenberg, Nystrom, & Cohen, 2008;
Navarrete, McDonald, Mott, & Asher, 2012; Nichols & Mallon, 2006; Patil, Cogoni,
Zangrando, Chittaro, & Silani, 2014; Robinson, Joel, & Plaks, 2015; Wiech et al.,
2013). Moral dilemmas are often characterized by the conflict which arises between
these two responses: the rational response and the emotional response. A rational and
utilitarian judgement assesses the well-being of the majority, tends to be slower, and
considers a list of reasons before deciding. An emotional and intuitive judgement
objects to damaging others based on the interoception of a gut feeling (Christensen &
Gomila, 2012; Kahneman, 2011; Nichols & Knobe, 2007; Patil, Melsbach, Hennig-Fast,
& Silani, 2016).
Moliné et al. (2017) and Moliné et al. (2018) studied the body temperature
changes that occur during the presentation of two moral dilemmas, a personal one and
an impersonal one, in high- and low-empathy participants. This research also studied
the time it takes to make this moral judgement as an indicator of the cognitive style of
the participant: intuitive thinking (emotional/visceral) or deliberate thinking (utilitarian
or logical). The main results were as follows: Higher thermal changes in high-empathy
participants (overall in the personal dilemma). These participants also tended to make
non-utilitarian judgments. On the other hand, the low-empathy participants tended to
make utilitarian judgments, and this study found that their thermal body change was
almost not significant. The main facial thermal changes in the high empathy participants
during the moral dilemmas were higher nose and hand temperature.
Swann, Gómez, Dovidio, Hart, & Jetten (2010), using an intergroup version of
the trolley problem (impersonal dilemma), explored participants´ willingness to
sacrifice their lives for their group as a function of their score on a scale measuring
fusion between personal and group identity (Swann, Gómez, Seyle, Morales, & Huici,
2009). Fused participants showed that they would jump to their death to save the life of
members of their group. Nonfused participants showed reluctance to sacrifice
Moral decisions and thermography
themselves. We would expect costly sacrifices and extreme actions such as dying,
letting their family suffer, killing civilians or undertaking a suicide-attack when sacred
values are stronger than group fusion. Here we add infrared thermographic temperature
changes as a somatic marker of the relative importance of sacred values.
To test this prediction, we conducted some experiments in which facial and hand
temperatures were measured when participants were presented with a moral dilemma
related to war or terrorism actions. We expected higher nose and hand temperature
associated with a response in accordance with sacred values (high central and peripheral
arousal in relationship with the fight response or sacrifice).
According to most previous cited studies, stress and emotional contagion
decrease nasal temperature (Engert et al., 2014; Ioannou et al., 2013) but it increases
during cognitive effort (Jenkins, Brown, & Rutterford, 2009). The objective of this
experiment includes discovering if facial thermal changes can be used as somatic
indicators of subjective experience. In this study, we designed a moral dilemma related
to war or terrorist actions with two possible solutions (the fight or flight response) and
measured temperatures of the forehead and tip of the nose as well as the hands while
participants were contemplating the dilemma.
It looks that with high arousal and avoidance behaviour, as in the case of stress,
anxiety or fear, the skin temperature of the nose and hands decreases (Moliné et al,
2017), but with high arousal but approach behaviour, as in the case of empathy,
confidence or determination, the skin temperature of nose and hands tends to increase
(Moliné et al., 2018). To test this idea, we designed several moral dilemmas related to
terrorism: the internet jihadist web dilemma, the zoom in-zoom out Taliban dilemma,
the torture dilemma and the point of view of a sniper dilemma. In all of them (described
below), the participants must choose between two alternatives that tend to produce
different motor responses (avoidance or approach) and emotional reactions (fear or
empathy). Our main goal is to study the thermal patterns associated with each type of
response and each emotional reaction. In all dilemmas, at the end of the session, the
participants were asked their opinion about the observed scene and asked to indicate the
level of fear they experienced on a 9-point scale, where 1 means “not at all” and 9
Moral decisions and thermography
means “I am very afraid.” Each dilemma description and the results associated to it
are depicted in a different colour: green, purple, red or blue.
Dilemma 1: Description of the zoom in-zoom out Taliban dilemma.
See pictures 1 (Taliban group) and 2 (American soldier) in figure 1. We created a power
point presentation one minute in duration with two different conditions: In condition A,
the slides zoomed in on a Taliban picture and zoomed out on an American soldier
picture, until the participant was confronted face to face with the eyes of a central
picture of the Taliban and the American soldier was really far away; In condition B, the
slides zoomed out on the Taliban picture and zoomed in on the American soldier
picture, until the participant was confronted face to face with the eyes of the American
soldier and the Taliban group was really far away. Both conditions are based on the
Marshmallow test book of Walter Mischel (2015): near means hot cognition, far away
produces cold cognition. Condition A should produce an emotional reaction due to the
close-up image of a terrorist group. Condition B, where the Taliban image becomes
increasingly small, should produce a rational response. See figure 1 and see now green
Figure 1 Images employed to illustrate the Taliban/soldier zoom in-out dilemma
(pictures 1 and 2)
Dilemma 2: Description of the internet jihadist web dilemma (after watching an ISIS
video on line)
A person frequently sees ISIS videos on the internet and maintains phone
contact with a terrorist group. Will you call the police against him?
Moral decisions and thermography
Condition A: That person is a loved one (your brother or sister or
husband/wife)—emotional response condition.
Condition B: That person is a new room-mate in a shared student flat (rational
response or non emotional involvement condition). See now purple results.
Dilemma 3: Description of the point of view of a sniper dilemma.
See pictures 3 and 4 in Figure 1. The participants watched a two minute video of a
sniper shooting a person fatally. During the video, the viewer adopts the point of view
of the sniper (during the second minute). In condition A, an innocent civilian is shot in
an urban context. But in condition B, an enemy soldier is shot during combat. To avoid
misinterpretation, the scene was described step by step through headphones. See figure
2. See now red results.
Figure 2 Images employed to illustrate the Sniper dilemma (pictures 3 and 4).
Dilemma 4: Description of the torture dilemma (after watching some videos of torture
of prisoners by American soldiers or by Taliban members):
Condition A or emotional condition: A European journalist is being tortured by
Taliban terrorists. Do you pay a ransom? Explain your answer.
Condition B or rational condition. An Islamic terrorist is being tortured by US
soldiers to get information about an inminent terrorist attack in Spain. Do you let
them do that or do you try to stop it? Explain your answer. See now blue results.
2.1 Method
Moral decisions and thermography
In total, 240 university students (93 females; ages between 18 to 35 years old; all
Christians) at Granada University were recruited for the study, which took place in the
CIMCYC thermographic laboratory. Upon arrival, they were instructed to read a brief
description of the research project; we obtained written informed consent from each
participant. After that, each participant answered a series of medical and biographical
items to ensure that they were in good health and not taking medication or drugs that
could interfere with the examination results. This research was approved by the local
Research Ethics Committee of Granada University. Sixty participants were randomly
assigned to each dilemma condition. For each dilemma, the participants run only one
condition (A or B) (30 participants per condition).
Equipment, procedure and settings
Identical to the equipment and procedure of experiment 1.
2.2 Results
The intercoder (of ROIs) reliability was .91, p < 0.001. Here we show the
results for each dilemma. We found no significant differences for the forehead ROIs in
all dilemmas.
Dilemma 1: The zoom in-zoom out Taliban dilemma
Thermal change for condition A: Lower nose tip (- 1.5ºC) and hand middle
fingertips (- 1.8 ºC) temperature during the video in 74% of the participants, t =
4.55, p < .01 and t = 5.89, p < .01 respectively, which means “I am afraid of the
Taliban” (X=7.1, SD=1.4, on the question regarding level of fear). The 24% of
participants who no showed thermal changes, declared that the Taliban group
scene was in some sense funny or not real (X= 3.5, SD= 0.3) or that they are
equidistant with respect to jihadism-USA marine war.
Thermal change for condition B: Hand and face temperature increments in 50%
of the participants (nose tip, 1.2 ºC; hands fingertip, 1.3 ºC), t = 3.47, p < .01 and
t = 4.55, p < .01 respectively; or no significant thermal changes for the rest of
participants). The increased thermal change is consistent with a lack of fear, and
indeed the responses for the fear item were consistent with the sentiment of “I
Moral decisions and thermography
like US soldiers, I feel secure or I do not feel fear at all” (X=2.5, SD=2.2). The
difference in subjective fear experienced between conditions A and B was
significant, t = 2.90, p < .01. See figure 3 for a participant in condition B.
(thermograms for base line and at the end of the dilemma)
Figure 3 Dilemma 1: Thermograms for base line and at the end of the dilemma (left and
right panel respectively)
Dilemma 2: The internet jihadist web dilemma
Thermal change for condition A (the jihadist supporter is a loved one).
Significant hands fingertip and nose tip temperature decrements in 90% of the
participants who decided to call the police (nose, -1.3 ºC; hand -1.3 ºC), t = 5.77,
p < .01 and t = 6.19, p < .01 respectively; and no thermal changes for the rest of
participants who decided to call the police except for one participant that showed
higher nose and hand fingertip temperature.
Thermal change for condition B (the unknown room-mate supports jihadists):
Nose tip (0.7 ºC) and hands middle fingertip (0.9 ºC) thermal increments in 80%
of the participants, t = 3.57, p < .01 and t = 4.68, p < .01 respectively, who
decided to call the police. The remaining 20% of participants also decided to call
the police but showed no significant thermal changes.
In general, for both conditions, 75% of participants were of the opinion that only
viewing ISIS videos online frequently was not a sufficient reason to call the
police but that a cellular contact with a terrorist group was a sufficient reason.
When both conditions were run within-subjects in sequential order (first
unknown roommate condition and second loving one condition) for a new
Moral decisions and thermography
sample of 15 participants (pilot study), 100% of the participants decided to
report to the police about the misbehaviour of the unknown room-mate but 90%
decided not to report to the police about the misbehaviour of the loved one, and
the facial temperature remained unchanged during the session.
See figure 4 for a participant in condition B. (thermograms for base line and at
the end of the dilemma)
Figure 4 Dilemma 2: Thermograms for base line and at the end of the dilemma (left and
right panel respectively)
Dilemma 3: The sniper point of view dilemma
Thermal change for condition A (killing innocent civilians): Nose tip (- 1.5ºC)
and hand middle fingertips (- 1.8 ºC) thermal decrements during video watching
in 80% of the participants, t = 6.05, p < .01 and t = 7.74, p < .01 respectively,
which was consistent with the high fear ratings on the scale (X=7.8, SD=0.5).
The 20% of participants who no showed thermal changes agreed that the video
depicted an evil action also but showed no significant fear (X=5.3, SD=2.2).
Thermal change for condition B (killing enemies during combat): Hands
fingertip and nose tip temperature increments in 30% of the participants (nose,
0.8 ºC; fingertips, 1.1 ºC), t = 3.72, p < .01 and t = 2.95, p < .01 respectively.
There was no significant thermal change for the majority of participants. The
lack of thermal change suggests participants considered the event “an expected
action during war,” as reflected by the average rating (X=5.5, SD=1.2). The
difference in fear experienced between conditions A and B was marginally
significant, t=1.90, p< .05.
Moral decisions and thermography
See figure 5 for a participant in condition A. (thermograms for base line and at
the end of the dilemma)
Figure 5 Dilemma 3: Thermograms for base line and at the end of the dilemma (left and
right panel respectively)
Dilemma 4: The torture dilemma
Thermal decrements in condition A for the participants who responded YES,
they would pay for the victim’s release. The automatic or more frequent
response, shown by 70% of participants within less than 30 seconds, was lower
temperature (nose tip, - 1.4 ºC; fingertips, -1.7 ºC), t = 4.25, p < .01 and t =
5.53, p < .01 respectively; but thermal increments in condition B for the
participants who responded YES, in favour of torture the terrorist (nose tip, 1.2
ºC; hands fingertips, 1.5 ºC), t = 4.32, p < .01 and t = 4.95, p < .01 respectively.
There were no significant thermal changes in Condition A and condition B for
participants who responded NO (against payment in condition A; against torture
in condition B). The controlled response o less frequent response, made by 30%
of participants was higher skin temperature: The Reaction Time (RT) for the
negative response was around one minute. The difference in RT between the
positive and negative responses was significant, t = 2.88, p < .01. See figure 6
for a participant in condition A. (thermograms for base line and at the end of the
Moral decisions and thermography
Figure 6 Dilemma 4: Thermograms for base line and at the end of the dilemma (left and
right panel respectively)
We found significant correlations between changes in facial temperature and
mental status. The direction of the thermal change depends on the nature of the reaction,
flight (lower nose and hand temperature) or fight (unchanged or increased nose and
hand temperature) response. These two thermal maps happened again in several new
terrorist moral dilemmas associated to different outcomes. Specifically, the temperature
of the nose tended to decrease during emotional reactions or condition A for each
terrorist dilemma (the slides zoomed in on a Taliban picture and zoomed out on an
American soldier picture; sniper killing innocent civilians; the jihadist supporter is a
loved one; to pay for the victim’s release to avoid European journalist torture) but it
tended to increase during rational reactions or condition B for each dilemma (the slides
zoomed in on a American soldier picture and zoomed out on an Taliban picture; sniper
killing enemies during combat; the unknown room-mate supports jihadists; against
torture of terrorists).
The different thermal patterns can be used to predict the participants´response to
the moral dilemmas or the emotional involvement with the scenario. Thermal
decrements in the nose and hands are associated with high arousal. However, new
research is needed to know the key factor: Automatic versus controlled processing; hot
versus cold cognition; emotional versus rational; avoidance versus approach behaviour
or negative versus positive valence.
Our experimental results point to the hot versus cold controlled cognition or to a
sympathetic versus a parasympathetic thermal pattern. We can discard the type of
response (yes or no) as a factor, because the same response (to report to the police) in
Moral decisions and thermography
different conditions of a dilemma can be associated with different thermal maps, such as
in the internet terrorism dilemma. The same can be said for valence (both conditions in
the sniper dilemma are negative). We can take into account automatic versus controlled
processing (in the torture dilemma, automatic response –yes- in both conditions is
associated to lower skin temperature and controlled response –no- to equal or higher
skin temperature) or emotional versus rational mental set (in the case of the zoom in-
zoom out Taliban dilemma, both conditions are associated to different arousal levels).
In any case, what matters is that different thermal maps happened under different moral
circumstances and response sets. If we fixed the stimuli, different thermal patterns were
associated with the behavioural options. If we fixed the output, the different thermal
patterns were associated to the circumstances of the stimulus set. The order of stimuli is
also an important factor that produces sequential effects in skin temperature (Tamargo,
& Gómez-Milán, 2017).. In the internet dilemma, a thermal increase or null thermal
change is associated to “call the police” response in condition B but to “do nothing”
response in condition A only if condition A happens after condition B. It means that we
can bias the outcome in a moral dilemma through the manipulation of the order of
events or by inducing a thermal map (probably associated to low arousal or to keep
calm) that is incongruent with a specific stimulus (a loving person at risk). A specific
skin thermal change occurs between the input (a loving person at risk) and the output (to
call or not to call the police): With fear or stress (with lower nose tip temperature) the
participants call the police but with calm (equal or higher nose tip temperature) they
decide not to call the police.
The most important point is that skin thermal changes are related to subjective
experience: There is a correlation between the thermal map and the moral decision. In
general, one important contribution of this research is to make a compelling case for
mental thermometry as a potent tool for studies on social cognition.
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... The choice of videos rather than pictures is based on the fact that the former can either bring the suicidal act closer (forward steps) or further away (backwards steps) in the logic of "cold" and "hot" emotions associated with (psychological) distance to action. [80][81][82] It should be noted that suicidal people assess first-person images of suicide as more positive than non-suicidal people (following Jaroszewki et al.). 79 While participants watch the videos, temperature skin changes will be recorded with infrared thermal cameras. ...
Research Proposal
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The problem: Suicide is a social, economic and personal problem. It was the second leading cause of death for ages 15-29 in 2016. 1 WHO has declared its intention to reduce its impact. Consequently, suicide prevention which in turn depends on predicting suicide risk, is of paramount importance. Current methods to predict suicide risk include self-reports, clinical assessments and statistical measurements of risk factors. But they typically fail at predicting actual suicides, not doing better than chance. 2 Ground breaking nature of the project: My group has been applying thermal images to assess various emotional states for the last few years. Thermography is an ecological, non-invasive method that requires little collaboration by subjects and that can reliably identify emotions and subjective states. For example, it is possible to measure facial emotions in different tasks, 3 such as implicit association tests, suicide questionnaires, first-person perspective suicide videos or writing farewell letters through thermography. This allows us to differentiate non-suicidal subjects, Suicide Ideators (SI) and people who actively Attempt Suicide (SA). Impact of the project: In this project we propose to develop a predictive model for suicidal behavior. We plan to use Deep-emotional thermography as our main methodology and apply both a psychological analysis of the factors implied in deciding to commit suicide (top-down model) and machine learning algorithms (bottom-up model) based on the thermographic changes on the skin of subjects performing suicide-related cognitive and emotional tasks. We are confident that we can find a reliable, fully-automated prediction system for suicide that can work as a basis for suicide prevention .
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This short report introduces a recently published checklist for reporting thermographic studies in sports and exercise medicine. The checklist is the result of a Delphi consensus process, which was achieved after intensive discussion among 24 experts from different fields such as sport sciences, physiology, physiotherapy and medicine. The checklist contains in total 15 items in the domains "participants' demographic information" (3 items), "Camera/exam room or environmental conditions" (8 items) and ""Recording and analysis of the thermal image" (4 items). Applying the checklist will improve the comparability and thus data pooling of thermographic studies.
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Functional infrared thermal imaging (fITI) is considered a promising method to measure emotional autonomic responses through facial cutaneous thermal variations. However, the facial thermal response to emotions still needs to be investigated within the framework of the dimensional approach to emotions. The main aim of this study was to assess how the facial thermal variations index the emotional arousal and valence dimensions of visual stimuli. Twenty-four participants were presented with three groups of standardized emotional pictures (unpleasant, neutral and pleasant) from the International Affective Picture System. Facial temperature was recorded at the nose tip, an important region of interest for facial thermal variations, and compared to electrodermal responses, a robust index of emotional arousal. Both types of responses were also compared to subjective ratings of pictures. An emotional arousal effect was found on the amplitude and latency of thermal responses and on the amplitude and frequency of electrodermal responses. The participants showed greater thermal and dermal responses to emotional than to neutral pictures with no difference between pleasant and unpleasant ones. Thermal responses correlated and the dermal ones tended to correlate with subjective ratings. Finally, in the emotional conditions compared to the neutral one, the frequency of simultaneous thermal and dermal responses increased while both thermal or dermal isolated responses decreased. Overall, this study brings convergent arguments to consider fITI as a promising method reflecting the arousal dimension of emotional stimulation and, consequently, as a credible alternative to the classical recording of electrodermal activity. The present research provides an original way to unveil autonomic implication in emotional processes and opens new perspectives to measure them in touchless conditions.
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Frontline investigations with fighters against the Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS), combined with multiple online studies, address willingness to fight and die in intergroup conflict. The general focus is on non-utilitarian aspects of human conflict, which combatants themselves deem ‘sacred’ or ‘spiritual’, whether secular or religious. Here we investigate two key components of a theoretical framework we call ‘the devoted actor’—sacred values and identity fusion with a group—to better understand people’s willingness to make costly sacrifices. We reveal three crucial factors: commitment to non-negotiable sacred values and the groups that the actors are wholly fused with; readiness to forsake kin for those values; and perceived spiritual strength of ingroup versus foes as more important than relative material strength. We directly relate expressed willingness for action to behaviour as a check on claims that decisions in extreme conflicts are driven by cost–benefit calculations, which may help to inform policy decisions for the common defense.
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Deception is a pervasive phenomenon that greatly influences dyadic, groupal and societal interactions. Behavioural, physiological and neural signatures of this phenomenon have imporant implications for theoretical and applied research, but, because it is difficult for a laboratory to replicate the natural context in which deception occurs, contemporary research is still struggling to find such signatures. In this study, we tracked the facial temperature of participants who decided whether or not to deceive another person, in situations where their reputation was at risk or not. We used a high-sensitivity infrared device to track temperature changes to check for unique patterns of autonomic reactivity. Using a region-of-interest based approach we found that prior to any response there was a minimal increase in periorbital temperature (which indexes sympathetic activation, together with reduced cheek temperature) for the self-gain lies in the reputation-risk condition. Crucially, we found a rise in nose temperature (which indexes parasympathetic activation) for self-gain lies in the reputation-risk condition, not only during response preparation but also after the choice was made. This finding suggests that the entire deception process may be tracked by the nose region. Furthermore, this nasal temperature modulation was negatively correlated with machiavellian traits, indicating that sympathetic/parasympathetic regulation is less important for manipulative individuals who may care less about the consequences of lie-related moral violations. Our results highlight a unique pattern of autonomic reactivity for spontaneous deception in ecological contexts.
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Sympathy crying is an odd and complex mixture of physiological and emotional phenomena. Standard psychophysiological theories of emotion cannot attribute crying to a single subdivision of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and disagreement exists regarding the emotional origin of sympathy crying. The current experiment examines sympathy crying using functional thermal infrared imaging (FTII), a novel contactless measure of ANS activity. To induce crying female participants were given the choice to decide which film they wanted to cry to. Compared to baseline, temperature started increasing on the forehead, the peri-orbital region, the cheeks and the chin before crying and reached even higher temperatures during crying. The maxillary area showed the opposite pattern and a gradual temperature decrease was observed compared to baseline as a result of emotional sweating. The results suggest that tears of sympathy are part of a complex autonomic interaction between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems, with the latter preceding the former. The emotional origin of the phenomenon seems to derive from subjective internal factors that relate to one’s personal experiences and attributes with tears arising in the form of catharses or as part of shared sadness.
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This study investigated hypothetical moral choices in adults with high-functioning autism and the role of empathy and alexithymia in such choices. We used a highly emotionally salient moral dilemma task to investigate autistics’ hypothetical moral evaluations about personally carrying out harmful utilitarian behaviours aimed at maximizing welfare. Results showed that they exhibited a normal pattern of moral judgments despite the deficits in social cognition and emotional processing. Further analyses revealed that this was due to mutually conflicting biases associated with autistic and alexithymic traits after accounting for shared variance: (a) autistic traits were associated with reduced utilitarian bias due to elevated personal distress of demanding social situations, while (b) alexithymic traits were associated with increased utilitarian bias on account of reduced empathic concern for the victim. Additionally, autistics relied on their non-verbal reasoning skills to rigidly abide by harm-norms. Thus, utilitarian moral judgments in autism were spared due to opposite influences of autistic and alexithymic traits and compensatory intellectual strategies. These findings demonstrate the importance of empathy and alexithymia in autistic moral cognition and have methodological implications for studying moral judgments in several other clinical populations.
The main objective of this research is to investigate the relationship between skin temperature changes, empathy and moral behaviour through the application of thermography. We recorded the skin temperature changes that occur during the presentation of one personal and one impersonal moral dilemma to high and low-empathy participants. The time needed to make this moral judgement was used as an indicator of the cognitive style of the participant: intuitive thinking (emotional) or deliberate thinking (utilitarian or logical). The main results were as follows: Large temperature changes occurred in high-empathy participants (overall in the personal dilemma) that could be understood as a skin representation of emotional judgements. These participants also tended to make non-utilitarian judgements. On the other hand, the low-empathy participants tended to make utilitarian judgements, and this study found that their change in skin temperature was almost always non-significant. The findings are discussed on an emotion-based description of moral dilemmas:
We applied the use of thermography to cognitive neuropsychology, particularly as an objective marker of subjective experiences, in the context of lying. We conducted three experiments: (a) An important lie was invented by the participants in 3 min, and it was recounted by phone to a significant person while they were recorded by the thermographic camera, obtaining a face and hands map of the lie. (b) A similar methodology was carried out, but adding the Cold Stress Test (CST) of the dominant hand during the phone call, obtaining a second physiologic marker (the percentage of thermal recovery) to detect the lie. Further, it established a control condition where it generated anxiety in the participants using IAPS images with negative valence and high arousal, which were described by phone to a loved one. We obtained results that showed significant correlations between changes in body temperature and mental set. Of particular interest was the temperature of the nose and hand, which tended to decrease during lying (Experiment 1). The participants also showed a lower recovery of the temperature after the CST when they were lying (Experiment 2). (c) Experiment 3 is a replication of Experiment 2 but with a different type of lie (a more ecological task) in a different scenario (following the ACID interview, with the use of the phone eliminated and participants motivated to lie well). The main pattern of results was replicated. We obtained an accuracy of 85% in detection of deception with 25% of false alarms.
Moral judgments play a critical role in motivating and enforcing human cooperation, and research on the proximate mechanisms of moral judgments highlights the importance of intuitive, automatic processes in forming such judgments. Intuitive moral judgments often share characteristics with deontological theories in normative ethics, which argue that certain acts (such as killing) are absolutely wrong, regardless of their consequences. Why do moral intuitions typically follow deontological prescriptions, as opposed to those of other ethical theories? Here, we test a functional explanation for this phenomenon by investigating whether agents who express deontological moral judgments are more valued as social partners. Across 5 studies, we show that people who make characteristically deontological judgments are preferred as social partners, perceived as more moral and trustworthy, and are trusted more in economic games. These findings provide empirical support for a partner choice account of moral intuitions whereby typically deontological judgments confer an adaptive function by increasing a person's likelihood of being chosen as a cooperation partner. Therefore, deontological moral intuitions may represent an evolutionarily prescribed prior that was selected for through partner choice mechanisms. (PsycINFO Database Record