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Soc Neurosci. 2011;6(5-6):640-52. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2011.605592. Epub 2011 Sep 15.

A somatic marker perspective of immoral and corrupt behavior.

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Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2520, USA.


Individuals who engage in corrupt and immoral behavior are in some ways similar to individuals with psychopathy. Normal people refrain from engaging in such behaviors because they tie together the moral value of society and the risk of punishment when they violate social rules. What is it, then, that allows these immoral individuals to behave in this manner, and in some situations even to prosper? When there is a dysfunction of somatic markers, specific disadvantageous impairments in decision-making arise, as in moral judgment, but, paradoxically, under some circumstances, the damage can cause the patient to make optimal financial investment decisions. Interestingly, individuals with psychopathy, a personality disorder, share many of the same behavioral characteristics seen in VMPFC and amygdala lesion patients, suggesting that defective somatic markers may serve as a neural framework for explaining immoral and corrupt behaviors. While these sociopathic behaviors of sometimes famous and powerful individuals have long been discussed, primarily within the realm of social science and psychology, here we offer a neurocognitive perspective on the possible neural roots of immoral and corrupt behaviors.

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