Morals and the human brain: a working model.

  title={Morals and the human brain: a working model.},
  author={Jorge Moll and Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza and Paul J. Eslinger},
  volume={14 3},
Morality has been at the center of informal talks and metaphysical discussions since the beginning of history. Recently, converging lines of evidence from evolutionary biology, neuroscience and experimental psychology have shown that morality is grounded in the brain. This article reviews the main lines of investigation indicating that moral behavior is a product of evolutionary pressures that shaped the neurobehavioral processes related to the selective perception of social cues, the… 

PERSPECTIVES Box 1 I Psychopathy and the neural organization of morality

A cognitive neuroscience view of how cultural and context-dependent knowledge, semantic social knowledge and motivational states can be integrated to explain complex aspects of human moral cognition is proposed.

The Neurobiology of Moral Behavior: Review and Neuropsychiatric Implications

  • M. Mendez
  • Psychology, Biology
    CNS Spectrums
  • 2009
The neurobiological evidence indicates the existence of automatic “prosocial” mechanisms for identification with others that are part of the moral brain, which has major clinical implications for the management of patients with dysmoral behavior from brain disorders and for forensic neuropsychiatry.

[The contribution of neuroscience to the understanding of moral behavior].

It is suggested that a satisfactory clinical/legal evaluation of a patient requires that the neural basis of moral behavior should be taken into account and that moral judgments are complex affective and cognitive phenomena.


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The main brain areas that have been associated with morality at both structural and functional levels are reviewed and how it can be studied is speculated about.

Social attachment and aversion in human moral cognition

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  • M. Mendez
  • Psychology, Biology
    Medical hypotheses
  • 2006

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Findings indicate that agency related to norm-abiding social behaviors of emotionally neutral scripts share neural substrates both with the “default mode” of brain function and with the moral sensitivity network.

The Developmental Neuroscience of Moral Sensitivity

Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies show age-related changes in response to empathy-eliciting stimuli, which indicate that the development of moral reasoning involves the increasing integration of empathic emotion-related somatovisceral responses with more complex social-reasoning abilities.

The role of the human prefrontal cortex in social cognition and moral judgment.

This review examines regions of the PFC that are critical for implicit and explicit social cognitive and moral judgment processing and discusses the likelihood that neural regions thought to uniquely underlie both processes heavily interact in response to different contextual primes.



Roots of social sensibility and neural function

We are social animals, with evolved mechanisms to discern the beliefs and desires of others. This social reason is linked to the concept of intentionality, the ability to attribute beliefs and

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  • K. Heilman
  • Psychology, Biology
    The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences
  • 1997
A neurological model of a modular network that mediates emotional experience where the cortex is critical in regulating activities of the limbic system, basal ganglia, and reticular system and the parietal lobes mediate approach behaviors is discussed.

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain

Brain books are similarly popular: humans are considered from a pathological/laboratory perspective and computer metaphors abound (your mind is your software!) and there are boxes and arrows in profusion.

The neuropsychiatry of limbic and subcortical disorders

Introduction to the neuropsychiatry of limbic and subcortical disorders and the neurobiology of fear responses: the role of the amygdala.

The neural substrates of religious experience.

  • J. SaverJ. Rabin
  • Psychology
    The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences
  • 1997
The authors suggest a limbic marker hypothesis for religious-mystical experience, which suggests the temporolimbic system tags certain encounters with external or internal stimuli as depersonalized, derealized, crucially important, harmonious, and/or joyous, prompting comprehension of these experiences within a religious framework.

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Morality dignifies and elevates. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God said "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Gen. 3:22). In many of the world's religious

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This extraordinary account of schmoozing, scheming, and consensus building among the chimpanzees of a large zoo colony in Arnhem, The Netherlands, attracted attention. Throughout this revised edition


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Although a rare occurrence in man, the Klüver-Bucy syndrome serves as a demonstration of an unusual brain syndrome whose theoretical and experimental basis has been greatly enlarged since first described.