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权衡对行动的道德判断

推断他人的心理状态(包括他们的信念)的能力有可能帮助我们对他们的行动做出道德判断。Liane Young及其同事使用经颅磁刺激(TMS)干扰了大脑中已知处理关于信念的信息的一个区域的神经活动,然后要求20个受试者对一些行动评分,分数从1(道德禁忌)到7(在道德上允许)。这组科学家报告说,与没有应用TMS或者向大脑其他区域应用TMS相比,当他们对大脑中的处理信念的区域应用TMS的时候,研究参与者断定那些被人认为会对其他人造成伤害(但是没有这样做)的行动变得在道德上更被允许了。这组作者提出,扰乱受试者处理信念的能力让受试者的判断变得更加基于结果而不是基于信念。这些结果表明了道德判断可能反映了在判断时候可用的相关信息的加权功能;当信念处理过程被扰乱的时候,道德判断就更少依赖于信念。这组作者说,这项研究可能有助于为幼儿以及有自闭症等社会认知障碍的人的道德发育带来新的见解。

参考文献:Published online before print March 29, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914826107

Disruption of the right temporoparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces the role of beliefs in moral judgments
Liane Younga,1, Joan Albert Camprodonb, Marc Hauserc, Alvaro Pascual-Leoneb, and Rebecca Saxea

Abstract
When we judge an action as morally right or wrong, we rely on our capacity to infer the actor's mental states (e.g., beliefs, intentions). Here, we test the hypothesis that the right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ), an area involved in mental state reasoning, is necessary for making moral judgments. In two experiments, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt neural activity in the RTPJ transiently before moral judgment (experiment 1, offline stimulation) and during moral judgment (experiment 2, online stimulation). In both experiments, TMS to the RTPJ led participants to rely less on the actor's mental states. A particularly striking effect occurred for attempted harms (e.g., actors who intended but failed to do harm): Relative to TMS to a control site, TMS to the RTPJ caused participants to judge attempted harms as less morally forbidden and more morally permissible. Thus, interfering with activity in the RTPJ disrupts the capacity to use mental states in moral judgment, especially in the case of attempted harms.

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