Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who Shalt Not Kill? Brain Power Leads To Level-headedness When Faced With Moral Dilemmas

Date:
June 11, 2008
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Should a sergeant sacrifice a wounded private on the battlefield in order to save the rest of his troops? Is euthanasia acceptable if it prevents needless suffering? Many of us will have to face some sort of extreme moral choice such as these at least once in our life. A new study in Psychological Science explores how people understand morality and make decisions on moral issues.

Should a sergeant sacrifice a wounded private on the battlefield in order to save the rest of his troops? Is euthanasia acceptable if it prevents needless suffering? Many of us will have to face some sort of extreme moral choice such as these at least once in our life. And we are also surrounded by less dramatic moral choices everyday: Do I buy the hybrid? Do I vote for a particular presidential candidate? Unfortunately, very little is known beyond philosophical speculation about how people understand morality and make decisions on moral issues.

Past research suggests that moral dilemmas can evoke strong emotions in people and tend to override thoughtful deliberation and reasoning. However, more recent neuroimaging research has discovered that sometimes people are capable of voluntarily suppressing these emotional reactions, allowing for decisions based on reasoning and careful deliberation of the consequences of one’s actions.

A new study appearing in the June issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, appears to support this neuroimaging evidence. Adam Moore of Princeton University and his colleagues Brian Clark and Michael Kane of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro tested this notion by measuring individuals’ working memory capacity -- essentially their ability to mentally juggle multiple pieces of information. The idea was that people who could best juggle information would be able to control their emotion and engage in “deliberative processing.”

The researchers then asked participants to make decisions in emotionally provocative situations. One example:

“A runaway trolley hurtles toward five unaware workmen; the only way to save them is to push a heavy man (standing nearby on a footbridge) onto the track where he will die in stopping the trolley.”

In these emotion laden scenarios, people with high working memory capacity were not only more consistent in their judgments but their answers indicated that they were considering the consequences of their choices in a way that the other participants were not.

“This suggests that emotional reactions to moral issues can drive our judgments and motivate action but can also blind us to the consequences of our decisions in some cases,” write the authors. Ultimately, people with higher working memory can be relied upon to make more consistent decisions and are able to more deeply consider consequences in these highly charged instances.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Who Shalt Not Kill? Brain Power Leads To Level-headedness When Faced With Moral Dilemmas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080609115219.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2008, June 11). Who Shalt Not Kill? Brain Power Leads To Level-headedness When Faced With Moral Dilemmas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080609115219.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Who Shalt Not Kill? Brain Power Leads To Level-headedness When Faced With Moral Dilemmas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080609115219.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins