Sunday, April 9, 2017

The neuroscience of moral development

See this study: "Neural Correlates of Post-Conventional Moral Reasoning." We can and must make value judgments about which moral operations are better for society as a whole instead of just rationalizing that earlier brain structures and the types of morality associated with them are just 'different' and thereby acceptable.

The abstract:

"Going back to Kohlberg, moral development research affirms that people progress through different stages of moral reasoning as cognitive abilities mature. Individuals at a lower level of moral reasoning judge moral issues mainly based on self-interest (personal interests schema) or based on adherence to laws and rules (maintaining norms schema), whereas individuals at the post-conventional level judge moral issues based on deeper principles and shared ideals. [...] Results demonstrate that subjects at the post-conventional level of moral reasoning were characterized by increased gray matter volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, compared with subjects at a lower level of moral reasoning. Our findings support an important role for both cognitive and emotional processes in moral reasoning and provide first evidence for individual differences in brain structure according to the stages of moral reasoning first proposed by Kohlberg decades ago."

More from the article about a "more sophisticated level of moral reasoning":

"While Greene and Haidt contend that no brain region is exclusively dedicated to moral reasoning, the finding of increased gray matter volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex/subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in subjects with a more sophisticated level of moral reasoning is supported by a body of functional neuroimaging studies demonstrating that moral decision making activates a neural network centered in the prefrontal cortex and in particular in the ventromedial PFC."

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