Get Inside Your Head! How Brains Make Moral Judgments

The Judgement of Solomon

The Judgement of Solomon (Photo credit: seriykotik1970)

“ I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” – Alan Greenspan

To me the brain is one of the most  fascinating area of study and while much research writing is well over my head, I found this recent TVO interview with Cognitive Neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe to be quite captivating.  For one thing she has mastered a way of telling her stories about brain research in a way that is entertaining and easy to understand.   A young scientist, she is credited with discovering a part of the brain that becomes active while thinking about what others are thinking – the right temporal-parietal junction – its kinda of behind the ear near the boundary of the frontal lobe.

This area of the brain lights up when we judge the thoughts of others.  In one example she tells participants that one person offers to get a colleague a cup of coffee.  A container of white powder beside the coffee is labelled poison.  She puts some in anyway and it turns out to be sugar. Her friend drinks the coffee and is fine.  How do you judge the person who put in the white powder not knowing it was sugar?  Guilty?  Not guilty since no one died?

Next the offer to get coffee finds the person reaching for white powder clearly labeled “SUGAR”. However unknown to the person getting the coffee – it is laced with poison and consequently the recipient the office colleague dies.  Is she responsible and guilty for the death? is she more guilty or less guilty than the first instance where no one died but could have given the labelling?    Listen to either of these interviews to hear the answers and what Rebecca’s research could mean.

It caught my attention because when I do repatterning sessions a section of the repatterning directs the practitioner to muscle check for a brain wave frequency and a brain area in relation to a problem or non-coherent pattern.   Chances are we are “Off” for resonating with the very brain frequency we need to resolve our issue.    Sometimes just this seemingly inconsequential part of the repatterning session is all that is needed to shift the non coherent patterns arising in a session.   I wondered how Rebececca’s discovery related to the very thing we do in the repatterning sessions.   Her’s is very specific to one part of the brain where as in the repatterning – it could be any brain area.  I am still contemplating!

Her work is contributing to our understanding of moral judgement, our ability to improve our moral judgement and other things like autism and dyslexia.     Here is the link for her Ted Talk or the more extensive interviews at  TVO.org.  

discussion welcomed!

With light and love

Carolyn

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