Emotion and Cognition in Moral Judgment: Evidence from Neuroimaging

  • Joshua Greene
Part of the Research and Perspectives in Neurosciences book series (NEUROSCIENCE)


Traditional theories of moral psychology emphasize reasoning and “higher cognition,” while more recent work emphasizes the role of emotion. In this article, I discuss neuroimaging data that support a theory of moral judgment according to which both “cognitive” and emotional processes play crucial and sometimes mutually competitive roles. These data suggest that brain regions associated with cognitive control (anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) are recruited to resolve difficult moral dilemmas in which utilitarian values require “personal” moral violations, violations associated with increased activity in brain regions associated with emotion and social cognition (medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal sulcus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporal poles, and the amygdala). We have also found that brain regions including the anterior dorsolateral prefrontal cortices predict inter-trial differences in moral judgment behavior, exhibiting greater activity for utilitarian judgments. I speculate that our emerging psychological and neuroscientific understanding of moral judgment may influence our responses to real-world moral dilemmas.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua Greene
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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