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Moral transgressions corrupt neural representations of value

Crockett, MJ; Siegel, JZ; Kurth-Nelson, Z; Dayan, P; Dolan, RJ; (2017) Moral transgressions corrupt neural representations of value. Nature Neuroscience , 20 (6) pp. 879-885. 10.1038/nn.4557. Green open access

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Abstract

Moral systems universally prohibit harming others for personal gain. However, we know little about how such principles guide moral behavior. Using a task that assesses the financial cost participants ascribe to harming others versus themselves, we probed the relationship between moral behavior and neural representations of profit and pain. Most participants displayed moral preferences, placing a higher cost on harming others than themselves. Moral preferences correlated with neural responses to profit, where participants with stronger moral preferences had lower dorsal striatal responses to profit gained from harming others. Lateral prefrontal cortex encoded profit gained from harming others, but not self, and tracked the blameworthiness of harmful choices. Moral decisions also modulated functional connectivity between lateral prefrontal cortex and the profit-sensitive region of dorsal striatum. The findings suggest moral behavior in our task is linked to a neural devaluation of reward realized by a prefrontal modulation of striatal value representations.

Type: Article
Title: Moral transgressions corrupt neural representations of value
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/nn.4557
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4557
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 Nature America, Inc., part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Neurosciences, Neurosciences & Neurology, GOAL-DIRECTED CHOICE, PREDICT INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES, COORDINATE-BASED METAANALYSIS, SOCIAL NORM COMPLIANCE, DECISION-MAKING, PREFRONTAL CORTEX, VALUATION SYSTEM, SELF-CONTROL, EMPATHY, CONNECTIVITY
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Gatsby Computational Neurosci Unit
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1555339
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