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Magnets can affect our morality

Research finds part of brain that determines how we judge others

Stay away from magnets if you get picked for jury duty. It could affect how you view the defendant.

Scientists discovered in a new study that a person's sense of how we judge the morality of others can be affected by magnetic waves directed at certain parts of the brain. That can make it more difficult for people to distinguish innocent intentions from harmful results.

"It's one thing to 'know' that we'll find morality in the brain," Liane Young, a scientist at MIT and co-author of the article, said in Discovery News. "It's another to 'knock out' that brain area and change people's moral judgments."

When magnetic stimulation was applied to the temporo-parietal junction, it affected the way subjects interpreted intentions. If someone tried to do something harmful but failed, that was deemed morally permissible. The outcome was key, not the intent.

“Our moral judgments are not the result of a single process, even though they feel like one uniform thing,” Rebecca Saxe, MIT assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences, said in MIT News. “It’s actually a hodgepodge of competing and conflicting judgments, all of which get jumbled into what we call moral judgment.”

The researchers reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week.

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1 comment on this story

Apr 6, 2010, 7:27 am
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Finally - a scientific explanation for those teabaggers and their tinfoil hats :)

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