Entry Date:
January 13, 2009

Moral Judgment and Theory of Mind

Principal Investigator Rebecca Saxe

We study the neural basis of human moral judgment. Of primary interest is the extent to which emotional processes inform moral judgment and the precise role of Theory of Mind, the capacity for mental state representation, in moral judgment. Are brain regions that support Theory of Mind recruited for moral judgment, specifically, judgment of intentional and unintentional harmful, helpful, and neutral actions? If so, what do their functional profiles reveal about belief attribution during moral judgment? What are the component processes of belief attribution for moral judgment, and does spontaneous belief attribution occur in certain moral contexts? To address questions like these, we use methods of cognitive neuroscience: functional neuroimaging (fMRI), studying patient populations with selective cognitive deficits, and modulating activity in specific brain areas using trancranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).