Do you know Right from Wrong?

New research is trying to bridge the gap between how rationality and emotion influence moral choices by combining brain scanning technology with moral psychology experiments.

Harvard Magazine reports on how Hazel associate professor and experimental psychologist and neuroscientist, Joshua Greene is shedding light on this debate.

Greene posits that rationality and emotion are recruited according to the circumstances, with each offering its own advantages and disadvantages.

A simple metaphor Greene equates with rationality and emotion is to that of the camera.  He states, “The nice thing about the overall design of the camera is that it gives you the best of both worlds: efficiency in point-and-shoot mechanisms and flexibility in manual mode.  The trick is to know when to point and shoot and when to use manual mode. I think that this basic design is really the design of the human brain.”

Green went on to delineate that rationality, unlike “manual mode” on a camera, cannot function independently of emotion,  “Reason by itself doesn’t have any ends, or goals.  It can tell you what will happen if you do this or that, and whether or not A and B are consistent with each other. But it can’t make the decision for you.”

Greene hopes that people may one day improve the judgements they make by learning more about the neurological mechanisms of moral decision-making.

To find out more on the details of his experiments click here.

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