Re: [asa] The Neurology of Morality and the Politics of Science

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Tue Mar 27 2007 - 20:31:34 EDT

On 3/26/07, Jack <> wrote:
> And David you might be glad to know that you are a typical male in this
> response. There was a study done years ago with school age boys and girls.
> I dont have the reference if front of me. But in this study students were
> given a scenario, probably similar to this one, and they compared the
> responses from the boys and the girls. The conclusion of the study was that
> there was a consistent difference between the girls and the boys, girls
> made moral decisions based on relationships, and boys made moral decisions
> based on rules.
> So maybe what damage in this area does is remove the relational component
> of moral decisions. Or in other words, damage in this area of the brain
> keeps us from being in touch with our feminine side. ;)

I have an autistic son. Autistic boys are sometimes described as having an
overly male brain. Regardless of where an autistic person is on the spectrum
they are all marked by deficits in dealing with social relations. It's not
merely rules they base their morality on but inflexible, concrete, and
non-abstract ones. There is also a very limited theory of mind which
attenuates their empathy. Moral codes inevitably get applied to others but
not themselves because of this. It's a misconception that it's a rational
vs. emotional thing. My autistic son can get very emotional particularly if
he feels offended. The best way to teach morality and other social
constructs to him is through oft-repeated concrete "scripts" which is also
highly comforting to him.

Male vs. female is not the only axis which affects moral judgment. Below is
a study that looks at a different factor other than gender.
to remove partisan references]

> In 2004, the researchers recruited 30 adult men who described themselves
> as committed members of the two parties. The men, half of them supporters
> of one candidate for president in 2004 and the other half backers of the
> other, earned $50 to sit in an M.R.I. machine and consider several
> statements in quick succession.
> The first was a quote attributed to one of the two candidates: either a
> remark by one in support of Kenneth L., the former E chief, before he was
> indicted, or a statement by the other that Social Security should be
> overhauled. Moments later, the participants read a remark that showed the
> candidate reversing his position. The quotes were doctored for maximum
> effect but presented as factual.
> Each group judged the opposite candidate as harshly as the other. But each
> group also let its own candidate off the hook.
> After the participants read the contradictory comment, the researchers
> measured increased activity in several areas of the brain. They included a
> region involved in regulating negative emotions and another called the
> cingulate, which activates when the brain makes judgments about forgiveness,
> among other things. Also, a spike appeared in several areas known to be
> active when people feel relieved or rewarded. The "cold reasoning" regions
> of the cortex were relatively quiet.
> Researchers have long known that political decisions are strongly
> influenced by unconscious emotional reactions, a fact routinely exploited by
> campaign consultants and advertisers. But the new research suggests that for
> partisans, political thinking on both sides of the political spectrum is
> often predominantly emotional.
Another poster tried to explain a recent Rasmussen poll was due to male vs.
female differences. When I looked at this poll, the partisan cross tabs
correlate better to the splits in opinion than male vs. female. Given the
subject of the poll was a political figure in one of the parties the poll
results confirmed the study above.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Tue Mar 27 20:32:36 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 27 2007 - 20:32:38 EDT