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Cognitive Processing

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 219–226 | Cite as

Gender-related differences in moral judgments

  • M. Fumagalli
  • R. Ferrucci
  • F. Mameli
  • S. Marceglia
  • S. Mrakic-Sposta
  • S. Zago
  • C. Lucchiari
  • D. Consonni
  • F. Nordio
  • G. Pravettoni
  • S. Cappa
  • A. PrioriEmail author
Research Report

Abstract

The moral sense is among the most complex aspects of the human mind. Despite substantial evidence confirming gender-related neurobiological and behavioral differences, and psychological research suggesting gender specificities in moral development, whether these differences arise from cultural effects or are innate remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the role of gender, education (general education and health education) and religious belief (Catholic and non-Catholic) on moral choices by testing 50 men and 50 women with a moral judgment task. Whereas we found no differences between the two genders in utilitarian responses to non-moral dilemmas and to impersonal moral dilemmas, men gave significantly more utilitarian answers to personal moral (PM) dilemmas (i.e., those courses of action whose endorsement involves highly emotional decisions). Cultural factors such as education and religion had no effect on performance in the moral judgment task. These findings suggest that the cognitive–emotional processes involved in evaluating PM dilemmas differ in men and in women, possibly reflecting differences in the underlying neural mechanisms. Gender-related determinants of moral behavior may partly explain gender differences in real-life involving power management, economic decision-making, leadership and possibly also aggressive and criminal behaviors.

Keywords

Moral judgment Morality Utilitarianism Gender differences 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Manuela Fumagalli was supported by University of Milan, Department of Neurological Sciences grant. Roberta Ferrucci was supported by FISM-Fondazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla—Cod. 2007/R/13.

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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Fumagalli
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • R. Ferrucci
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • F. Mameli
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • S. Marceglia
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • S. Mrakic-Sposta
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • S. Zago
    • 1
    • 3
  • C. Lucchiari
    • 4
  • D. Consonni
    • 5
  • F. Nordio
    • 5
    • 6
  • G. Pravettoni
    • 4
  • S. Cappa
    • 7
  • A. Priori
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Neurologiche, Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Mangiagalli e Regina ElenaUniversità di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Centro Clinico per le Neuronanotecnologie e la NeurostimolazioneFondazione IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Mangiagalli e Regina ElenaMilanItaly
  3. 3.Unità Operativa di NeurologiaFondazione IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Mangiagalli e Regina ElenaMilanItaly
  4. 4.Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali e Politiche, Centro interdipartimentale di Ricerca e Intervento sui Processi Decisionali (IRIDe)Università di MilanoMilanItaly
  5. 5.Unità di EpidemiologiaFondazione IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Mangiagalli e Regina ElenaMilanItaly
  6. 6.Dipartimento di Clinica Medica, Nefrologia e Scienze della PrevenzioneUniversità degli StudiParmaItaly
  7. 7.Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Centro di Neuroscienze Cognitive, Istituto Scientifico San RaffaeleUniversità Vita-Salute San RaffaeleMilanItaly

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