Original Paper

Neuroethics

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 97-103

Individual Differences in Moral Behaviour: A Role for Response to Risk and Uncertainty?

  • Colin J. PalmerAffiliated withPerceptual and Clinical Neuroscience Group, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash UniversityMonash Philosophy & Cognition Lab, Philosophy Department, School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University Email author 
  • , Bryan PatonAffiliated withPerceptual and Clinical Neuroscience Group, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash UniversityMonash Philosophy & Cognition Lab, Philosophy Department, School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University
  • , Trung T. NgoAffiliated withPerceptual and Clinical Neuroscience Group, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash UniversityMonash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Alfred Hospital and Monash University
  • , Richard H. ThomsonAffiliated withPerceptual and Clinical Neuroscience Group, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash UniversityMonash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Alfred Hospital and Monash University
  • , Jakob HohwyAffiliated withMonash Philosophy & Cognition Lab, Philosophy Department, School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University
  • , Steven M. MillerAffiliated withPerceptual and Clinical Neuroscience Group, School of Psychology & Psychiatry, Monash UniversityMonash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Alfred Hospital and Monash University

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Abstract

Investigation of neural and cognitive processes underlying individual variation in moral preferences is underway, with notable similarities emerging between moral- and risk-based decision-making. Here we specifically assessed moral distributive justice preferences and non-moral financial gambling preferences in the same individuals, and report an association between these seemingly disparate forms of decision-making. Moreover, we find this association between distributive justice and risky decision-making exists primarily when the latter is assessed with the Iowa Gambling Task. These findings are consistent with neuroimaging studies of brain function during moral and risky decision-making. This research also constitutes the first replication of a novel experimental measure of distributive justice decision-making, for which individual variation in performance was found. Further examination of decision-making processes across different contexts may lead to an improved understanding of the factors affecting moral behaviour.

Keywords

Decision making Morality Distributive justice Risk Uncertainty Individual differences