The Social Neuroscience of Justified Violence

Ogilvie, Claudette (2013). The Social Neuroscience of Justified Violence Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ogilvie, Claudette
Thesis Title The Social Neuroscience of Justified Violence
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2013-10-09
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Pascal Molenberghs
Total pages 105
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary Inhumane conduct such as killing other people is justifiable in warlike situations when the target is believed to be deserving of the violence. The current study investigated the neural mechanisms involved in justified and unjustified violence in order to obtain a better understanding of humans’ ability to inflict pain and suffering on others. These types of violence were investigated using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), where participants imagined being the perpetrator whilst watching video clips of enemy soldiers (‘justified’) and innocent civilians (‘unjustified’) being shot. Results revealed that participants rated the soldiers lower on characteristics of perceived humanness compared to civilians. When participants were imagining themselves shooting civilians compared to soldiers, greater activation was found in the insula, lateral orbitofrontal cortex, right inferior frontal gyrus and fusiform gyrus. These findings indicate that participants felt greater disgust and guilt at their act of committing unjustified violence, while suppressing these negative emotions when committing justified violence. Interestingly, the greater dehumanisation of soldiers compared to civilians was not associated with reduced activation in the medial prefrontal cortex. This indicates that people do think about the mental states of dehumanised targets in certain contexts. As a whole, the findings from the current study contribute to our understanding of how people readily kill others in war, and extend to other situations when they perceive the violence as justified.
Keyword Social neuroscience
justified violence

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Created: Tue, 08 Jul 2014, 09:05:12 EST by Danico Jones on behalf of School of Psychology