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Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgements.
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Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgements.

Author: M Koenigs Affiliation: Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.L YoungR AdolphsD TranelF CushmanAll authors
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication:Nature, 2007 Apr 19; 446(7138): 908-11
Database:From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Other Databases: ArticleFirstBritish Library Serials
Summary:
The psychological and neurobiological processes underlying moral judgement have been the focus of many recent empirical studies. Of central interest is whether emotions play a causal role in moral judgement, and, in parallel, how emotion-related areas of the brain contribute to moral judgement. Here we show that six patients with focal bilateral damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a brain region  Read more...
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Details

Document Type: Article
All Authors / Contributors: M Koenigs Affiliation: Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.; L Young; R Adolphs; D Tranel; F Cushman; M Hauser; A Damasio
ISSN:0028-0836
Language Note: English
Unique Identifier: 123869021
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Abstract:

The psychological and neurobiological processes underlying moral judgement have been the focus of many recent empirical studies. Of central interest is whether emotions play a causal role in moral judgement, and, in parallel, how emotion-related areas of the brain contribute to moral judgement. Here we show that six patients with focal bilateral damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a brain region necessary for the normal generation of emotions and, in particular, social emotions, produce an abnormally 'utilitarian' pattern of judgements on moral dilemmas that pit compelling considerations of aggregate welfare against highly emotionally aversive behaviours (for example, having to sacrifice one person's life to save a number of other lives). In contrast, the VMPC patients' judgements were normal in other classes of moral dilemmas. These findings indicate that, for a selective set of moral dilemmas, the VMPC is critical for normal judgements of right and wrong. The findings support a necessary role for emotion in the generation of those judgements.

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