Where in the brain is morality? Everywhere and maybe nowhere

  title={Where in the brain is morality? Everywhere and maybe nowhere},
  author={Liane Young and James Dungan},
  journal={Social Neuroscience},
  pages={1 - 10}
The neuroscience of morality has focused on how morality works and where it is in the brain. In tackling these questions, researchers have taken both domain-specific and domain-general approaches—searching for neural substrates and systems dedicated to moral cognition versus characterizing the contributions of domain-general processes. Where in the brain is morality? On one hand, morality is made up of complex cognitive processes, deployed across many domains and housed all over the brain. On… 

How does morality work in the brain? A functional and structural perspective of moral behavior

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.

The Moral Brain: A Multidisciplinary Perspective

The contributors address the evolution of morality, considering precursors of human morality in other species as well as uniquely human adaptations, and examine motivations for morality, exploring the roles of passion, extreme sacrifice, and cooperation.

Invoking the brain in studying morality: A theoretical and historical perspective on the neuroscience of morality

It is argued that what the neuroscience of morality studies is a contingent notion, which means that the meaning of both the brain and morality is in constant flux and dependent upon theorizing and research practice.

Understanding the Adaptive Functions of Morality from a Cognitive Psychological Perspective

This review suggests that the limitations of accounts claiming that morality is composed of many distinct domains can be overcome by systematically investigating the cognitive mechanisms that support moral judgments across descriptively distinct domains.

Why (and how) should we study the interplay between emotional arousal, Theory of Mind, and inhibitory control to understand moral cognition?

A model of morality is outlined which proposes that the evaluation of basic harmful actions relies on complex interactions between emotional arousal, Theory of Mind (ToM) capacities, and inhibitory control resources.

The Neuroscience of Moral Judgment: Empirical and Philosophical Developments

We chart how neuroscience and philosophy have together advanced our understanding of moral judgment with implications for when it goes well or poorly. The field initially focused on brain areas

Social cognitive neuroScience: a review of core SyStemS

Descartes famously argued that the mind is both everlasting and indivisible (Descartes, 1988). If he was right about the first part, he is probably pretty impressed with the advance of human

Brain activity during moral judgement of action

It is suggested that moral judgement, as part of individual behaviour, is supported by activity of functional systems formed at different stages of individual development; therefore brain activity during moral judgement is accounted for by the specificity of distribution of neural elements offunctional systems across the brain structures.

25 Moral Reasoning: A Network Neuroscience Perspective

This chapter considers moral reasoning in terms of the topology and dynamics of brain networks in order to expand the understanding of how judgments about morality might depend on the brain’s systems and organization.

The Neuropathology of Morality: Germany 1930–1960

  • F. Schirmann
  • Psychology
    Journal of the history of the neurosciences
  • 2014
The focus of this article is on the period 1936–1960 in which experts put forth specific ideas on morality's cerebral underpinnings that mirror the larger theoretical shift from strict localization doctrine to a more holistic understanding of the brain.



Investigating emotion in moral cognition: a review of evidence from functional neuroimaging and neuropsychology.

A narrative review of neuroscientific studies focused on the role of emotion in morality indicates that not only are emotions engaged during moral cognition, but that emotions, particularly those mediated by VMPC, are in fact critical for human morality.

The Neural Correlates of Moral Sensitivity: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Investigation of Basic and Moral Emotions

It is suggested that the automatic tagging of ordinary social events with moral values may be an important mechanism for implicit social behaviors in humans.

Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgements

It is shown that six patients with focal bilateral damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), a brain region necessary for the normal generation of emotions, produce an abnormally ‘utilitarian’ pattern of judgements on moral dilemmas that pit compelling considerations of aggregate welfare against highly emotionally aversive behaviours.

Manipulations of Emotional Context Shape Moral Judgment

The proposed dual-process model of moral judgment suggests another unexamined route by which choice might be influenced: contextual sensitivity of affect.

How (and where) does moral judgment work?

Transgressors, victims, and cry babies: Is basic moral judgment spared in autism?

Basic moral judgment is investigated and it appears to be substantially intact in children with autism who are severely impaired in “theory of mind”, and studies of moral reasoning in normal development are extended by way of a new control task, the “cry baby” task.

Selective deficit in personal moral judgment following damage to ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

Compared to normal controls, patients were more willing to judge personal moral violations as acceptable behaviors in personal moral dilemmas, and they did so more quickly, which indicates that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is necessary to oppose personalmoral violations.

An fMRI Investigation of Spontaneous Mental State Inference for Moral Judgment

The results illuminate two aspects of theory of mind in moral judgment: (1) spontaneous belief inference and (2) stimulus-driven belief integration.