Mode of effective connectivity within a putative neural network differentiates moral cognitions related to care and justice ethics

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Abstract

Background: Moral sensitivity refers to the interpretive awareness of moral conflict and can be justice or care oriented. Justice ethics is associated primarily with human rights and the application of moral rules, whereas care ethics is related to human needs and a situational approach involving social emotions. Among the core brain regions involved in moral issue processing are: medial prefrontal cortex, anterior (ACC) and posterior (PCC) cingulate cortex, posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS), insula and amygdala. This study sought to inform the long standing debate of whether care and justice moral ethics represent one or two different forms of cognition. Methodology/Principal Findings: Model-free and model-based connectivity analysis were used to identify functional neural networks underlying care and justice ethics for a moral sensitivity task. In addition to modest differences in patterns of associated neural activity, distinct modes of functional and effective connectivity were observed for moral sensitivity for care and justice issues that were modulated by individual variation in moral ability. Conclusions/Significance: These results support a neurobiological differentiation between care and justice ethics and suggest that human moral behavior reflects the outcome of integrating opposing rule-based, self-other perspectives, and emotional responses. © 2011 Cáceda et al.

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Cáceda, R., James, G. A., Ely, T. D., Snarey, J., & Kilts, C. D. (2011). Mode of effective connectivity within a putative neural network differentiates moral cognitions related to care and justice ethics. PLoS ONE, 6(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0014730

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