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Personal Moral Dilemmas

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Personal Moral Dilemmas
Hello and welcome, In this week we have been talking about various aspects of cognition and emotion by now we have talked about the effects of emotion on attention, effects of emotion on memory, you also talked about the effects of various kinds of emotions, anger, sadness, positive emotion,anxiety on different kinds of decision making processes on you know on the kinds of judgments people would make on their attitude towards risk-taking and etcetera.In today's lecture, I will talk to you about a very interesting aspect of emotional decisionmaking, let us we will talk about personal moral dilemmas, we will talk about how judgment and decision making can actually be affected in course of you know such moral dilemmas. I will talk to you about what moral dilemmas are in a bit.So, let us kind of let us take the cognitive neuroscience approach to this problem nowcognitive neuroscience provides an alternative way of understanding the role played by theemotional factors in judgment and decision making, what kind of areas of the brain areactually involved when you are making such kind of a decision being affected by such kind of emotion.So, when you are kind of looking at the brain and how the brain is actually helping you or influencing your thing, much of the research within the cognitive neurosciences approach has focused on very difficult model problems of a particular kind these problems are I will referred to as personal moral dilemmas.Let me give you a couple of examples so, there is a trolley problem suppose you are ridinga particular trolley you are the driver of that trolley and you have to you reach a particularpoint that you have to divert the trolley to an alternative path and if you do not divertthe trolley to an alternative path all 5 6 of the people riding the trolley will die, but if you divert the trolley on the alternative path the total will run over one of theperson who is working on that alternative path and he will die.So, the idea is if you divert the trolley one person will die if you do not divert thetrolley all 5 people will die, this is one problem.The other problem is called the footbridge problem the footbridge problem is fact thatthere is again also a runaway trolley this time you have to decide whether to push afat person over the bridge.So, there is a fat person in your trolley maybe 5 6 of you are riding the trolley oneof these fat persons has to be thrown out of the trolley in order to save the life of5 people.Now, the death will cause the person of this thing the pushing will certainly cause thedeath of the person that you will push away, but you will stop the runaway trolley andit will prevent 5 deaths . So, how would you solve this problem you canprobably you know take a moment pause the lecture end and decide what you want to do,but I will tell you what a lot of people do about ninety percent of the people decidethat it is worth diverting the trolley in the trolley problem and only about 10 percentof people actually decide that it is worth diverting a trolley in the footbridge problem,both cases one person would have died 5 lives would have been saved, but the fact is thatonly 10 person decide to actually there were the trolley in the footbridge problem while90 percent of people decided that it is to divert the trolley in the runaway trolleyproblem.Why is this happening, according to Greene the difference between the 2 problems is thatthe footbridge problem triggers a strong emotional response and the strong emotional responseis to disapprove the pushing of a person and causing the death you know even though thatwould save lives, more specifically what we are doing is we are responding very stronglyat an emotional level to the notion of causing direct harm to an individual.That is something which people would not want to do if something kind of happens you knowthere is I kind of always think that there is a general apathy among people, but thefact is how many of them are actually going to you know directly cause harm to the otherperson that is that is a very interesting question to talk about.Now, problems such as the foot over bridge problem are known as personal moral dilemmasand a lot of cognitive science cognitive neuroscience research actually looks at the brain of peoplewhen they are actually making this kind of decision, what is going on in their head whenthey have to decide on these kind of things.Greene and colleagues also have a they have conducted a lot of research dealing with thesepersonal moral dilemmas are very another interesting moral dilemma is suppose you are living ina village and your village has been attacked by enemy soldiers.Now they these enemy soldiers have orders to kill all the civilians you know you andsome of your own towns people have sorted a refuge in a cellar of a large house outsideyou hearing the you know voices the soldiers who are approaching and the fact is you suddenlyyour baby your child you know starts crying your babies beginning to cry.Now the fact is if you cover his mouth to block his crying the baby will be smotheredto death.So, the idea is if you kind of put your hand on the mouth of the baby will certainly die.But the fact is if you do not stop the baby from crying if you do not cover his mouthif you do not smother him to death, the fact is the soldiers will get to know of all the5 6 people maybe 20 people, 100 people who are hiding with you and they will die.So, there are 2 approaches to this either you decide to save yourself and others andyou must smother your baby death or you decide to save the baby, but that; obviously, hasa risk of you know getting anyone killed anyways getting everyone killed anyways.So, these kind of problems very hard because crying babies rather for that matter is agonizinglydifficult problem because of the conflict it is creating.On the one hand there is a very powerful emotional imperative that you know you do not want tokill your own child and you are that is the emotional argument on the other hand thereis a very powerful argument at you more lives can be saved if you just you know smotheryour baby to death.So, would you want to kill your own baby to save everybody else's life or would you wantto save your own baby at the risk of you know everybody else's lifeSo, that is the there is a cognitive arguments the there is a emotional argument that youmust kill your baby because everybody you know you should not kill your baby and thecognitive argument you should kill your baby because everybody else life will be saved.So, this is a kind of a very complicated thing and this problem is very hard because emotionaland cognitive factors are directly in conflict with each other I mean in common parlancewe say whether the heart is making the decision or the mind is making the decision so, thisis such kind of a problem.Now, this explanation of decision making with personal moral dilemmas is basically knownas the dual process theory.So, if the argument that I was saying the emotional argument contrasted with the cognitiveargument it is basically referred to as the dual process theory of decision making.Some people you would find it they would attach more weight to the cognitive argument thando the emotional one they would generally make utilitarian judgments.So, in utilitarian judgment is ; obviously, you want to save more lives and the experienceof you know 1 life or 2 lives, other people attach more weight to the emotional argumentand they tend to make what I refer to as non utilitarian judgment just because you areemotionally attached to the to your child you would not want to kill your child andso, but you are risking the lives of everybody else.Now, how can cognitive neuroscience which in how can cognitive neuroscience clarifywhat is happening in such kind of decision making.Now there are 2 relevant areas of the brain 2 relevant regions of the brain that can kindof help us contrast these 2 decision making processes.One of them is the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe of the brain whichis involved in cognitive control.So, if you are doing cognitive evaluations you will probably expect this region to getto get lighten up the other region is that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is theregion of the brain that is important from processing and the generation of emotion.So, if somebody is going by the emotional argument you would expect this region of thebrain to lighten up.So, let us look at how these 2 areas of the brain get activated when people are you knowevaluating the cognitive or the emotional argument and this should tell us a littlebit about what the contribution of these 2 areas with respect to you know decision makingare . Now, if you would want to look at the activityof the DLPFC and you wanted to compare the activity of the DLPFC in people who made utilitarianjudgments versus people who made non - utilitarian judgments, you would probably expect thatformer individuals those who are making the utilitarian judgments, you will probably expectthat there DLPFC would show more activity.They are basically looking at the problem from the cognitive perspective they are lookingat the problem from you know response inhibition response selection, evaluation of responses,kind of perspective which is basically the tasks that the DLPFC does.So, people making more utilitarian judgment should show more activation in their dorsallateral prefrontal cortex precisely this is what was reported by Greene and colleaguesin a study they published in 2004 so; obviously, DLPFC is linked with cognitive argument evaluationof the cognitive argument and making utilitarian judgments .Now, let us move on to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, now if you are talking about patientswho have a damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex that is the VMPFC you would assumethat because they cannot generate because they cannot process emotions these peoplewould lack the emotional responsiveness and because these people lack the emotional responsivenessthey would you know they will attach less weight to the emotional argument.They will also make more utilitarian judgments and less nonutility in non - utilitarian judgments.Accordingly, we would expect such patients to be more likely than healthy controls tomake as I was saying utilitarian judgment putting more weight to the cognitive argument.Now, Koenigs and colleague and they did this experiment in 2007 and they actually foundthat the ventromedial prefrontal cortex damaged patients made twice as more utilitarian judgmentsas compared to the healthy controls which is 45 percent and 20 percent in the healthycontrol that is a massive number that is something that is showing that you know the lack ofemotional responsiveness because of brain damage is not allowing them to really attendto the emotional side of the argument at all.Now, this is interesting, but and this is not only happening because the brain is damagedand they are not being able to think properly because these people who are administered.So, many different tests as well and they performed fairly well across all the tests.So, it is just about the emotional decisions that they are not really being we will make.Now, there is one limitation in Koeings and you know Koeings and colleagues a study of2007 that this is still the evidence they are providing is not really a direct evidenceof the fact that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex damaged patients are lacking emotionalresponsiveness.So, what is happening here, you have to get to more direct evidence.So, Moretto and colleagues in 2007 and in 2010 they reported that ventromedial prefrontalcortex damaged patients they approved more personal violations of moral dilemmas thancontrols.So, you know personal so, the if the emotional code is broken these people are kind of finewith that it is of importance to note that they did not really produce an emotional responseeven before or while endorsing the emotional violations of the persons you know morality. So, again this is ah supporting evidence for the fact that they ventromedial prefrontalcortex might be linked you know with the absence of emotional responsiveness and with makingmore emotionally neutral decisions.Now, these findings kind of link the VMPFC and kind of establish that the VMPFC is involvedin assessing the emotional consequences of personal moral violations.Further the relevance of VMPFC to emotional processing can be seen in individuals whohave antisocial personality disorder.If you kind of look at the brains of psychopaths, murderers, killers those kind of people andif you look at their brain and if you want to look at the ventromedial prefrontal cortexactivations what is happening there, these individuals also have a complete absence ofempathy during you know when they are intact cognitive processing is there.So, they just lack any kind of empathy and any kind of you know emotional care for theother persons . So, Harenski and colleague they wanted tostudy the brain activity in these criminal psychopaths in a study they did in 2010 andother imprisoned individuals in response to you know pictures showing moral violation.So, they showed them scenes of crime gruesome scenes and stuff and they wanted to look atwhat kind of moral responses these people will give.The non - psychopathic prisoners had did show greater activity in the ventromedial prefrontalcortex and you know while they were viewing these pictures as compared to the other pictures.In contrast there was a comparable ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the psychopaths for alltypes of pictures, indicating that the picture showing moral violations had no special emotionalsignificance of them.So, their thing is that then they are treating everything equal the emotional pictures arenot really having any important ah status in their cognitive processing.So, again this is also in some sense in indirect proof that the ventromedial prefrontal cortexmight be involved in evaluating the emotional arguments in emotionality responding to suchkind of a conflict scenario.So, the DLPFC and the VMPFC and now you can see that if somebody is going by the cognitiveargument the DLPFC activation should be there is what is going by the emotional argumentsor emotional side of arguments then the VMPFC activations must be there.Now, there are sorts of limitations to these kind of studies as well, see for example,in spite of this success of the dual process theory it is a little bit oversimplified youknow it kind of just says that there are 2 boxes in which processing and happen it isalmost like a binary and; obviously, I mean binary is not a great way to classify complexprocesses as decision making.Complex ways of processing as emotions and cognition and those kind of things and itis partly because you know the brain areas involved in decision making and moral dilemmasare much more widespread than just the DLPFC or the VMPFC cognitive processing is associatedwith several brain areas in addition to these 2 areas and you know just pinning the grailof making such kind of decision.So, these 2 areas just vocalizing them is probably not a very useful strategy.And the second point the account of cognitive processing with personal moral dilemmas islimited, it is not it does not really cover all the aspects of decision making, it isassumed that the involvement of cognitive processing increases the tendency do preferutilitarian judgments or decisions.So, if people are making doing more cognitive processing they are going to take more utilitarianjudgments . Now, there are studies which kind of talka little bit about that Broeders and colleagues in 2011 they argue that the moral rule isthe most accessible to the cognitive system that influences moral decisions.So, if there is a cognitive system that has to take these decisions it will probably makeuse of the moral rule and in that sense you know when participants and in their studywhen participants were presented with the foot over bridge problem preceded by the informationdesigned to lead them to focus on the moral rule.Say for example, "Saving lives" is the rule "Do not kill" is the rule participants forwhom "Saving lives" was flash they found a mode this rule more accessible and you knowit was significantly in favor of pushing the person off the footbridge then those who receivedthe rule of "Do not kill."So, they will probably make use of the more accessible moral rule.So, that is kind of one way this processing is really happening .Now,.So, focusing the cognitive processes on certain moral rules sometimes can increase or decreasethe tendency to make utilitarian versus non utilitarian judgments.So, it is not really about that somebody's looking at the cognitive side of the thingsor the emotional side of the things the person is just trying to access a particular rule.If you prime them with the main rule and the main rule is let us say saving lives, theneither of the decisions will be easy or if the main rule is do not kill then you knowone kind of decision slightly becomes more difficult.So, this is something that you know you have to be fairly cautious that the dual processtheory of making decisions might be slightly more complex you know might be slightly oversimplifiedand in a sense the explanations offered might not be really you know as effective.So, I think that is all from my side about judgmental decision making and I hope youlike the section on cognition emotional various aspects of it, we will meet you in the nextweek which is the last week of the course.Thank you .