Wi Hoon Jung, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania; Kristin Prehn, Charité Medical School Berlin; Zhuo Fang, Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania; Marc Korczykowski, Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania; Joseph W. Kable, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania; Hengyi Rao, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; and Diana Robertson, Legal Studies and Business Ethics, The Wharton School
NeuroImage, November 2016
Abstract: Moral competence (MC) refers to the ability to apply certain moral orientations in a consistent and differentiated manner when judging moral issues. People greatly differ in terms of MC, however, little is known about how these differences are implemented in the brain. To investigate this question, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and examined resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) in n=31 individuals with MC scores in the highest 15% of the population and n=33 individuals with MC scores in the lowest 15%, selected from a large sample of 730 Master of Business Administration (MBA) students. Compared to individuals with lower MC, individuals with higher MC showed greater amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal connectivity, which may reflect better ability to cope with emotional conflicts elicited by moral dilemmas. Moreover, individuals with higher MC showed less inter-network connectivity between the amygdalar and fronto-parietal networks, suggesting a more independent operation of these networks. Our findings provide novel insights into how individual differences in moral judgment are associated with RSFC in brain circuits related to emotion processing and cognitive control.