Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Nature. 2007 Apr 19;446(7138):908-11. Epub 2007 Mar 21.

Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgements.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.

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.

PMID:
17377536
PMCID:
PMC2244801
DOI:
10.1038/nature05631
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center