Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain scans link concern for justice with reason, not emotion

Date:
March 28, 2014
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
People who care about justice are swayed more by reason than emotion, according to new brain scan research. Psychologists have found that some individuals react more strongly than others to situations that invoke a sense of justice -- for example, seeing a person being treated unfairly, or with mercy. The new study used brain scans to analyze the thought processes of people with high “justice sensitivity.”

People who care about justice are swayed more by reason than emotion. That is the unexpected finding of new brain scan research from the University of Chicago department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.

Related Articles


Psychologists have found that some individuals react more strongly than others to situations that invoke a sense of justice — for example, seeing a person being treated unfairly, or with mercy. The new study used brain scans to analyze the thought processes of people with high “justice sensitivity.”

“We were interested to examine how individual differences about justice and fairness are represented in the brain to better understand the contribution of emotion and cognition in moral judgment,” explained lead author Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry.

Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain-scanning device, the team studied what happened in the participants’ brains as they judged videos depicting behavior that was morally good or bad. For example, they saw a person put money in a beggar’s cup or kick the beggar’s cup away. The participants were asked to rate on a scale how much they would blame or praise the actor seen in the video. People in the study also completed questionnaires that assessed cognitive and emotional empathy, as well as their justice sensitivity.

As expected, study participants who scored high on the justice sensitivity questionnaire assigned significantly more blame when they were evaluating scenes of harm, Decety said. They also registered more praise for scenes showing a person helping another individual.

But the brain imaging also yielded surprises. During the behavior-evaluation exercise, people with high justice sensitivity showed more activity than average participants in parts of the brain associated with higher-order cognition. Brain areas commonly linked with emotional processing were not affected.

The conclusion was clear, Decety said: “Individuals who are sensitive to justice and fairness do not seem to be emotionally driven. Rather, they are cognitively driven.”

According to Decety, one implication is that the search for justice and the moral missions of human rights organizations and others do not come primarily from sentimental motivations, as they are often portrayed. Instead, that drive may have more to do with sophisticated analysis and mental calculation.

Decety adds that evaluating good actions elicited relatively high activity in the region of the brain involved in decision-making, motivation and rewards. This finding suggests that perhaps individuals make judgments about behavior based on how they process the reward value of good actions as compared to bad actions.

“Our results provide some of the first evidence for the role of justice sensitivity in enhancing neural processing of moral information in specific components of the brain network involved in moral judgment,” Decety said.

UChicago Psychology doctoral student Keith Yoder is a co-author on the paper, which was published in the March 19 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. J. Yoder, J. Decety. The Good, the Bad, and the Just: Justice Sensitivity Predicts Neural Response during Moral Evaluation of Actions Performed by Others. Journal of Neuroscience, 2014; 34 (12): 4161 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4648-13.2014

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Brain scans link concern for justice with reason, not emotion." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140328102909.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2014, March 28). Brain scans link concern for justice with reason, not emotion. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140328102909.htm
University of Chicago. "Brain scans link concern for justice with reason, not emotion." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140328102909.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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