The neural correlates of justified and unjustified killing: An fMRI study

Molenberghs, Pascal, Ogilvie, Claudette, Louis, Winnifred R., Decety, Jean, Bagnall, Jessica and Bain, Paul G. (2015) The neural correlates of justified and unjustified killing: An fMRI study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10 10: 1397-1404. doi:10.1093/scan/nsv027

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Author Molenberghs, Pascal
Ogilvie, Claudette
Louis, Winnifred R.
Decety, Jean
Bagnall, Jessica
Bain, Paul G.
Title The neural correlates of justified and unjustified killing: An fMRI study
Journal name Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1749-5024
Publication date 2015-03-09
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1093/scan/nsv027
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 10
Issue 10
Start page 1397
End page 1404
Total pages 8
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Oxford University Press
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Abstract Despite moral prohibitions on hurting other humans, some social contexts allow for harmful actions such as killing of others. One example is warfare, where killing enemy soldiers is seen as morally justified. Yet, the neural underpinnings distinguishing between justified and unjustified killing are largely unknown. To improve understanding of the neural processes involved in justified and unjustified killing, participants had to imagine being the perpetrator whilst watching ‘first-person perspective’ animated videos where they shot enemy soldiers (‘justified violence’) and innocent civilians (‘unjustified violence’). When participants imagined themselves shooting civilians compared with soldiers, greater activation was found in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Regression analysis revealed that the more guilt participants felt about shooting civilians, the greater the response in the lateral OFC. Effective connectivity analyses further revealed an increased coupling between lateral OFC and the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) when shooting civilians. The results show that the neural mechanisms typically implicated with harming others, such as the OFC, become less active when the violence against a particular group is seen as justified. This study therefore provides unique insight into how normal individuals can become aggressors in specific situations.
Keyword Morality
Intentional harm
Violence
Conflict
Orbitofrontal cortex
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
 
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