Moral emotions and moral reasoning from the perspective of affective cognitive neuroscience: A selective review

James Blair, Katherine Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper selectively reviews the literature on the moral emotions (empathy, guilt, shame and embarrassment) and moral reasoning from the perspective of affective cognitive neuroscience. Simulation based accounts of emotional empathy based on the human mirror neuron system appear inadequate. Instead, emotional empathy may be better considered as another emotional response to a stimulus; we become fearful to objects associated with threat whether they are weapons or the frightened faces of other individuals. There appear to be two interrelated neurocognitive components to the moral emotions of guilt, embarrassment and shame. The first involves dorsomedial and inferior frontal cortex activations and may relate to restitution and appeasement related behavior associated with these emotions. The second involves ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region critical for representing emotional information. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, are consistently implicated in human neuroimaging studies investigating moral reasoning, stressing the importance of emotion in moral reasoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-323
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Developmental Sciences
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

Keywords

  • Moral emotion
  • Moral neuroscience
  • Moral reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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