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Are Our Moral Decisions Based Solely On Biology?23:29
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Sarah Beth Spitzer, a research assistant at Harvard University, wears an EEG cap, used to localize the regions of the brain needed to stimulate during the test. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Sarah Beth Spitzer, a research assistant at Harvard University, wears an EEG cap, used to localize the regions of the brain needed to stimulate during the test. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

What makes you a good person or a bad person? How do you choose between the devil and the angel on your shoulders? What forms your moral compass?

Well, it could be how you were raised. Or your faith. Or the values of the society you live in.

But if you ask a neuroscientist, they'll likely tell you that morality has an even deeper, more fundamental origin than that. Researchers are finding that moral decision-making is a deeply biological process, rooted in your brain.

That's the subject in the latest in our series: "Brain Matters: Reporting from the Front Lines of Neuroscience."

Guests

Carey Goldberg, co-host of WBUR's CommonHealth blog. She tweets @commonhealth.

Josh Buckholtz, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard University.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University.

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CommonHealth: Beyond Good And Evil: New Science Casts Light On Morality In The Brain

  • "Harvard brain scientist Joshua Buckholtz has never forgotten a convict he met back when he was an undergrad conducting psychological tests in prisons. The man had beaten another man nearly to death for stepping on his foot in a dance club."

This segment aired on August 7, 2014.

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