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Differential neural circuitry and self-interest in real vs hypothetical moral decisions.

FeldmanHall O, Dalgleish T, Thompson R, Evans D, Schweizer S, Mobbs D - Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2012)

Bottom Line: We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions.Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices.Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 7EF, UK. Oriel.FeldmanHall@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Classic social psychology studies demonstrate that people can behave in ways that contradict their intentions--especially within the moral domain. We measured brain activity while subjects decided between financial self-benefit (earning money) and preventing physical harm (applying an electric shock) to a confederate under both real and hypothetical conditions. We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions. However, hypothetical and real moral decisions also recruited distinct neural circuitry: hypothetical moral decisions mapped closely onto the imagination network, while real moral decisions elicited activity in the bilateral amygdala and anterior cingulate--areas essential for social and affective processes. Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices. Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Experimental setup, trial sequence (highlighting analyzed epochs)and behavioral data: (A) The Receiver (a confederate) sits in anadjoining testing laboratory to the scanning facility where the Decider (true subject)is undergoing fMRI. The Decider is told that any money left at the end of the taskwill be randomly multiplied up to 10 times, giving Deciders as much as £200 totake home. The Decider is also required to view, via prerecorded video feed, theadministration of any painful stimulation to the Receiver, who is hooked up to anelectric stimulation generator. (B) All three tasks (Real PvG, ImaginePvG and Non-Moral task) follow the same event-related design, with the same structureand timing parameters. Our analytical focus was on the Decide event (>11 s).The Video event (4 s), which was spaced a fixed 11 s after the Decideevent, was also used in the analysis. (C) Still images of each taskillustrating the video the Decider saw while in the scanner: Real PvG video, ImaginePvG video, and Non-Moral video, respectively. VAS scale Deciders used to indicateamount of money to give up/stimulation to deliver per trial. (D)Significantly more Money Kept in the Real PvG Task as compared to the Imagine PvG Task(P = 0.025; error bars = 1 S.E.M).(E) No significant differences between distress levels in response tothe Video event across moral tasks.
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nss069-F1: Experimental setup, trial sequence (highlighting analyzed epochs)and behavioral data: (A) The Receiver (a confederate) sits in anadjoining testing laboratory to the scanning facility where the Decider (true subject)is undergoing fMRI. The Decider is told that any money left at the end of the taskwill be randomly multiplied up to 10 times, giving Deciders as much as £200 totake home. The Decider is also required to view, via prerecorded video feed, theadministration of any painful stimulation to the Receiver, who is hooked up to anelectric stimulation generator. (B) All three tasks (Real PvG, ImaginePvG and Non-Moral task) follow the same event-related design, with the same structureand timing parameters. Our analytical focus was on the Decide event (>11 s).The Video event (4 s), which was spaced a fixed 11 s after the Decideevent, was also used in the analysis. (C) Still images of each taskillustrating the video the Decider saw while in the scanner: Real PvG video, ImaginePvG video, and Non-Moral video, respectively. VAS scale Deciders used to indicateamount of money to give up/stimulation to deliver per trial. (D)Significantly more Money Kept in the Real PvG Task as compared to the Imagine PvG Task(P = 0.025; error bars = 1 S.E.M).(E) No significant differences between distress levels in response tothe Video event across moral tasks.

Mentions: Accordingly, we used a ‘your pain, my gain’ (PvG) laboratory task (Feldmanhall et al., 2012) to operationalize thiscore choice between personal advantage and another’s welfare: subjects were probedabout their willingness to receive money (up to £200) by physically harming (viaelectric stimulations) another subject (Figure1A). The juxtaposition of these two conflicting motivations requires balancingselfish needs against the notion of ‘doing the right thing’ (Blair, 2007). We carried out a functional magneticresonance imaging (fMRI) experiment using the PvG task to first explore if real moralbehavior mirrors hypothetical intention, and second, to examine if these two classes ofbehavior are subserved by the same neural architecture. We hypothesized that people wouldimagine doing one thing, but when faced with real monetary incentive, do another—andthat this behavioral difference would be reflected at the neurobiological level withdifferential patterns of activity. Fig.1


Differential neural circuitry and self-interest in real vs hypothetical moral decisions.

FeldmanHall O, Dalgleish T, Thompson R, Evans D, Schweizer S, Mobbs D - Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2012)

Experimental setup, trial sequence (highlighting analyzed epochs)and behavioral data: (A) The Receiver (a confederate) sits in anadjoining testing laboratory to the scanning facility where the Decider (true subject)is undergoing fMRI. The Decider is told that any money left at the end of the taskwill be randomly multiplied up to 10 times, giving Deciders as much as £200 totake home. The Decider is also required to view, via prerecorded video feed, theadministration of any painful stimulation to the Receiver, who is hooked up to anelectric stimulation generator. (B) All three tasks (Real PvG, ImaginePvG and Non-Moral task) follow the same event-related design, with the same structureand timing parameters. Our analytical focus was on the Decide event (>11 s).The Video event (4 s), which was spaced a fixed 11 s after the Decideevent, was also used in the analysis. (C) Still images of each taskillustrating the video the Decider saw while in the scanner: Real PvG video, ImaginePvG video, and Non-Moral video, respectively. VAS scale Deciders used to indicateamount of money to give up/stimulation to deliver per trial. (D)Significantly more Money Kept in the Real PvG Task as compared to the Imagine PvG Task(P = 0.025; error bars = 1 S.E.M).(E) No significant differences between distress levels in response tothe Video event across moral tasks.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
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getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3475363&req=5

nss069-F1: Experimental setup, trial sequence (highlighting analyzed epochs)and behavioral data: (A) The Receiver (a confederate) sits in anadjoining testing laboratory to the scanning facility where the Decider (true subject)is undergoing fMRI. The Decider is told that any money left at the end of the taskwill be randomly multiplied up to 10 times, giving Deciders as much as £200 totake home. The Decider is also required to view, via prerecorded video feed, theadministration of any painful stimulation to the Receiver, who is hooked up to anelectric stimulation generator. (B) All three tasks (Real PvG, ImaginePvG and Non-Moral task) follow the same event-related design, with the same structureand timing parameters. Our analytical focus was on the Decide event (>11 s).The Video event (4 s), which was spaced a fixed 11 s after the Decideevent, was also used in the analysis. (C) Still images of each taskillustrating the video the Decider saw while in the scanner: Real PvG video, ImaginePvG video, and Non-Moral video, respectively. VAS scale Deciders used to indicateamount of money to give up/stimulation to deliver per trial. (D)Significantly more Money Kept in the Real PvG Task as compared to the Imagine PvG Task(P = 0.025; error bars = 1 S.E.M).(E) No significant differences between distress levels in response tothe Video event across moral tasks.
Mentions: Accordingly, we used a ‘your pain, my gain’ (PvG) laboratory task (Feldmanhall et al., 2012) to operationalize thiscore choice between personal advantage and another’s welfare: subjects were probedabout their willingness to receive money (up to £200) by physically harming (viaelectric stimulations) another subject (Figure1A). The juxtaposition of these two conflicting motivations requires balancingselfish needs against the notion of ‘doing the right thing’ (Blair, 2007). We carried out a functional magneticresonance imaging (fMRI) experiment using the PvG task to first explore if real moralbehavior mirrors hypothetical intention, and second, to examine if these two classes ofbehavior are subserved by the same neural architecture. We hypothesized that people wouldimagine doing one thing, but when faced with real monetary incentive, do another—andthat this behavioral difference would be reflected at the neurobiological level withdifferential patterns of activity. Fig.1

Bottom Line: We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions.Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices.Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 7EF, UK. Oriel.FeldmanHall@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Classic social psychology studies demonstrate that people can behave in ways that contradict their intentions--especially within the moral domain. We measured brain activity while subjects decided between financial self-benefit (earning money) and preventing physical harm (applying an electric shock) to a confederate under both real and hypothetical conditions. We found a shared neural network associated with empathic concern for both types of decisions. However, hypothetical and real moral decisions also recruited distinct neural circuitry: hypothetical moral decisions mapped closely onto the imagination network, while real moral decisions elicited activity in the bilateral amygdala and anterior cingulate--areas essential for social and affective processes. Moreover, during real moral decision-making, distinct regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) determined whether subjects make selfish or pro-social moral choices. Together, these results reveal not only differential neural mechanisms for real and hypothetical moral decisions but also that the nature of real moral decisions can be predicted by dissociable networks within the PFC.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus