Researchers can disrupt moral reasoning by applying a magnetic field to the area of the brain involved in evaluating the actions of other people:
MIT neuroscientists have shown they can influence people’s moral judgments by disrupting a specific brain region — a finding that helps reveal how the brain constructs morality.
To make moral judgments about other people, we often need to infer their intentions — an ability known as “theory of mind.” For example, if a hunter shoots his friend while on a hunting trip, we need to know what the hunter was thinking: Was he secretly jealous, or did he mistake his friend for a duck?
Previous studies have shown that a brain region known as the right temporo-parietal junction TPJ is highly active when we think about other people’s intentions, thoughts and beliefs. In the new study, the researchers disrupted activity in the right TPJ by inducing a current in the brain using a magnetic field applied to the scalp. They found that the subjects’ ability to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people’s intentions — for example, a failed murder attempt — was impaired.