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Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2013 Aug;17(3):273-92. doi: 10.1177/1088868313495594.

Action, outcome, and value: a dual-system framework for morality.

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CLPS Department, Brown University, Box 1821, 190 Thayer St, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Dual-system approaches to psychology explain the fundamental properties of human judgment, decision making, and behavior across diverse domains. Yet, the appropriate characterization of each system is a source of debate. For instance, a large body of research on moral psychology makes use of the contrast between "emotional" and "rational/cognitive" processes, yet even the chief proponents of this division recognize its shortcomings. Largely independently, research in the computational neurosciences has identified a broad division between two algorithms for learning and choice derived from formal models of reinforcement learning. One assigns value to actions intrinsically based on past experience, while another derives representations of value from an internally represented causal model of the world. This division between action- and outcome-based value representation provides an ideal framework for a dual-system theory in the moral domain.


dual-system theory; emotion; morality; reasoning; reinforcement learning

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