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Emotion and Cognition in Moral Judgment

Josh Greene

Thursday, October 28, 2004, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Princeton University, Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior

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Traditional theories of moral psychology emphasize reasoning and "higher cognition," while more recent work emphasizes the role of emotion.� I'll present behavioral and fMRI data that support a theory of moral judgment according to which both "cognitive" and emotional processes play crucial� and sometimes mutually competitive roles.� These data suggest that brain regions associated with cognitive control (anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) are recruited to resolve difficult moral dilemmas in which utilitarian values require "personal" moral violations, violations that have previously been associated with increased activity in emotion-related brain regions.� My collaborators and I have also found that brain regions including the anterior dorsolateral prefrontal cortices predict inter-trial differences in moral judgment behavior, exhibiting greater activity for utilitarian judgments.� I will argue that the controversy surrounding utilitarian moral philosophy reflects an underlying tension between competing subsystems in the brain.� If time permits, I will also present a tentative solution to the "The Trolley Problem," cast in terms of a theory describing the cognitive mechansims that trigger the aforementioned emotional responses.

Josh Greene