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Summary and Critique of Cope et al.

BACKGROUND In Hemispheric Asymmetries during Processing of Immoral Stimuli 1, Cope et al. report the results of three fMRI studies consistent with the hypothesis that, among humans, the specialized circuitry involved in processing negative morally laden stimuli is lateralized in the left hemisphere. To contextualize their research, Cope et al. describe Broca’s early recognition of … Continue reading

CVS Modulates Moral Judgments

Few things feel more intuitive than our sense of right and wrong. How do agency, valence, and processing levels of moral stimuli influence this sense, and are the circuits involved lateralized in one or the other cerebral hemispheres? To address these questions, I used caloric vestibular stimulation (CVS) treatments followed by the Explicit Moral Judgment Test (EMJT) to probe the biological circuitry of moral judgments. Subjects’ moral evaluations were modulated by CVS treatments across agency, valence, and processing variables, providing evidence for the lateralization of newly identified moral modules concerned with positive-subtraction and self-positive processing. Continue reading

Burke was right: man is a religious animal

Burke’s arguments for why England, or any state, should keep its “church establishment” strongly foreshadows a great deal of modern science’s conclusions as to why religion exists in the first place, i.e., utility in the stability of social identity and political order. Burke’s only failure comes from the assumption that morality – that great social lubricant – is the exclusive domain of religion, and that moral behavior is derived from it. Continue reading

Morality: Evolution’s Winning Gambit

The evolutionary and neurobiological investigations of morality are only just beginning, but they are already shedding light on the contexts that must have shaped our capacity and propensity for moral judgment and behavior, and on the circuitry that generates our sense of right and wrong and compels us to act accordingly. We are slowly building … Continue reading

Morality: A Sexually Dimorphic Domain?

Gender-based phenotypic differences are hotly debated in every domain in which they are proposed to exist, and perhaps in no context more so than the brain. Gender differences in moral processing has been a topic more of theoretical psychology than experimental, with little correlation between the findings of the few experiments conducted and the many … Continue reading