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Magnetism Can Sway Man's Moral Compass

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the so-can-hot-chicks dept.

Biotech 586

Hugh Pickens writes "Discovery News reports that scientists have identified a region of the brain which appears to control morality and discovered that a powerful magnetic field can scramble the moral center of the brain, impairing volunteers' notion of right and wrong. 'You think of morality as being a really high-level behavior,' says Liane Young, a scientist at MIT and co-author of the article. 'To be able to apply (a magnetic field) to a specific brain region and change people's moral judgments is really astonishing.' Young and her colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to locate an area of the brain just above and behind the right ear known as the right temporo-parietal junction (RTPJ), which other studies had previously related to moral judgments. Volunteers were exposed to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for 25 minutes before reading stories involving morally questionable characters, and being asked to judge their actions. The researchers found that when the RTPJ was disrupted volunteers were more likely to judge actions solely on the basis of whether they caused harm — not whether they were morally wrong in themselves. The scientists didn't permanently remove the subjects' moral sensibilities and on the scientists' seven point scale, the difference was about one point, averaging out to about a 15 percent change, 'but it's still striking to see such a change in such high level behavior as moral decision-making.' Young points out that the study was correlation; their work only links the RTJP, morality, and magnetic fields, but doesn't definitively prove that one causes another."

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586 comments

Ooh Ohh Mr. Kotter I have an idea (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675284)

Take it to your nearest prison and turn it on in reverse!

But... But... My soul! My free will! (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675522)

How can magnets impact my moral choices? Isn't my soul supposed to do that? Is my soul a magnet? Maybe free will is magnetic. Or MAYBE, just maybe, those things don't exist except as concepts in the human mind.

Re:But... But... My soul! My free will! (3, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675774)

That reminds me: [innocence.com]

Spider: So this Zealot comes to my door, all glazed eyes and clean reproductive organs, asking me if I ever think about God.

So I tell him I killed God. I tracked God down like a rabid dog, hacked off his legs with a hedge trimmer, raped him with a corncob, and boiled off his corpse in an acid bath.

So he pulls an alternating-current taser on me and tells me that only the Official Serbian Church of Tesla can save my polyphase intrinsic electric field, known to non-engineers as "the soul."

So I hit him. What would you do?

Potential abuse of research? (2, Interesting)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675286)

How long until this is used as a defense in court?

Re:Potential abuse of research? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675480)

I'm guessing that the "Your Honor, I had a giant morals-scrambling magnet pressed against my head at the time" defense should be pretty easy to confirm or deny...

Now, as for the broader use, yeah, this research does indeed suggest that, for instance, somebody with a tumor or lesion in the area that the researchers were scrambling might well be "insane" in the sense of having impaired moral cognition, without overt psychosis or anything similarly dramatic. That isn't really "abuse" though. That's an enhancement of our understanding how how the brain works.

However, I'm not sure that the "Yup, I have a permanently defective capacity for moral cognition" defense would be something that you would pursue unless you, in fact, do. Indefinite commitment to a secure psychiatric facility isn't exactly a walk in the park, even compared to prison.

Re:Potential abuse of research? (4, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675614)

>>> "Your Honor, I had a giant morals-scrambling magnet pressed against my head at the time"

That's what she said.

Re:Potential abuse of research? (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675488)

My guess is shortly after it shows up on House M.D. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Potential abuse of research? (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675564)

Thanks for that link! For years now I've been hearing people talk about house this, house that, and I thought, "When did house music make a big comeback?" Now, thanks to your informative link, I know that House is a TV show.

Re:Potential abuse of research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675524)

shhh the scientists are holding this research for when the cops find the dead hooker in the back of their car

How long till it's built into helmets? (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675530)

Very useful feature that.
 

Re:Potential abuse of research? (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675594)

Legitimately? Many decades. This research shows that there indeed is some sort of modular physiological aspect to our conception of morality. But beyond that, it tells us almost nothing about how it might affect behavior in a legal sense. In the future this kind of research will require a fundamental change in our judicial system, but not yet. Now if we are talking about quack defenses, I bet someone has already tried it. Sadly the lack of scientific knowledge in jurors and judges makes it such that they are unlikely to be able to understand the issue beyond the false experts and fancy lawyer talkin'.

oblig Lost (2, Funny)

llamafirst (666868) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675768)

How long until this is used as a defense in court?

At the very least, for the folks on the TV show "Lost" [wikipedia.org] we could explain away their crazy behavior -- the magnetism is outrageous there and messed with their minds!

"THE SMOKE MONSTER TOLD ME TO DO IT AND IT JUST SEEMED *RIGHT*!"

Re:Potential abuse of research? (0, Troll)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675812)

Don't you mean "How long until this is used in the military?"

The military, by necessity, trains people to commit what are generally immoral acts such as killing people or blowing up someone else's house. I wouldn't be surprised to see them very interested in tools to make that piece of the training easier to accomplish, even if it involves very expensive tools.

Re:Potential abuse of research? (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675826)

It doesn't sound like a sound defense. Moral judgements have nothing to do with legality; there's nothing immoral about smoking pot, for example. Whether you're talking about Druids, Christians, Jews, Hindus, any religion, none have any injunction against smoking pot. Smoking pot harms no one. The marijuana laws were passed by lies (see the propaganda movie "Reefer Madness"). Laws are subjective; they are NOT based on morality. Adultery is immoral (and harmful), yet there's no law against it in my state.

What confuses me, (and I RTFA just because it did confuse me, and TFA gave no answer) is what kinds of moral delimmas did they present?

The researchers found that when the RTPJ was disrupted volunteers were more likely to judge actions solely on the basis of whether they caused harm -- not whether they were morally wrong in themselves.

I can't think of anything that's morally wrong that doesn't cause harm. Did I read the wrong FA?

Ah that's it, is it (1)

andrea.sartori (1603543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675308)

This would explain an awful lot of things.

Re:Ah that's it, is it (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675376)

Yep, we're just meat puppets with enough brain complexity to fool us into thinking we're special.

Re:Ah that's it, is it (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675394)

I choose to be a meat puppet over a vegetable or fungus puppet anyday

Re:Ah that's it, is it (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675676)

SARAH PALIN WILL NOT HAVE SEX WITH YOU.

Who knows what might happen after you zap her with that magnet-gun....

SARAH PALIN WILL NOT HAVE SEX WITH YOU. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675726)

Your signature says:

SARAH PALIN WILL NOT HAVE SEX WITH YOU.

She will after I take off her tinfoil hat and put a magnet up against her head!

Re:Ah that's it, is it (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675432)

Yes ... for one thing we now know that the magnetic fields in Amsterdam and Bangkok are way out of kilter.

Re:Ah that's it, is it (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675694)

I wonder if some researcher will see this result, and do an analysis of crime rate to magnetic field strength (it does vary in place to place) to try to determine if there's a correlation... Actually, now that I said that, I would like to see the results of such a study. Not that I expect any relation whatsoever, it'd be interesting to see if there was...

Re:Ah that's it, is it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675490)

Pyramids, magnetic fields, all that New Age crap was true after all???

Re:Ah that's it, is it (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675650)

Considering the efficiency of sound waves at swaying man's moral compass I'm not sure this really changes much. With the rates indicated by various Milgramesque experiments, simply appending 'that's an order' may be a far more effective way of disabling someone's moral compass than pointing fancy-shmancy TMS equipment at them.

Re:Ah that's it, is it (2, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675814)

Except Milgram showed that a few people are completely immune to coercion by authority. This equipment will probably work on anyone.

Degausser (3, Funny)

Danathar (267989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675314)

Wow...all those years of double daring my data center colleagues to put the hand electric de-gausser to their forehead and turn it on for 30 seconds might have more of an effect than I anticipated.....

Oh, yeah? (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675342)

I TRIPLE-DOG-DARE ya!

Re:Oh, yeah? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675578)

gbutler created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat.

Re:Degausser (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675610)

I'm trying REAL hard to remember if I ever took that dare myself...

Re:Degausser (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675640)

Forget the degausser - I guess this [bruker-biospin.com] is what screwed me up... 18.8 Tesla, baby, 18.8 Tesla...

Ohs Noes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675330)

Cue the "nazis wore headphones" brigade in 3... 2... 1....

How long before Tiger Woods just blames magnetism? (1)

Gomer79 (43434) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675334)

It wasn’t my fault I fooled around honey they all had a magnet so I couldn’t tell it was wrong. Honest!

Better put on your.... (1)

fudoniten (918077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675344)

...Tin foil hat!

So, how long will it be before somebody uses the "Power Lines" defense in a murder case?

Re:Better put on your.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675460)

...Tin foil hat!

Won't do any good. You will need a Mu-metal [wikipedia.org] hat.

New excuse. (1)

Samphis (1645247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675352)

The degausser made me do it.

Re:New excuse. (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675602)

It's only an "excuse" if you would have committed the act anyway, or if you deliberately subjected yourself to it. If I spike your soda with LSD and you flip out and kill somebody, do you really think you should be completely culpable for that act?

If somebody wants to raise this as a defense or mitigating factor in court, then let them. Luckily we have judges and juries who sort through these things instead of applying blanket rules. I seriously doubt that this effect, even if real, could ever cause a little old lady to become a serial killer, though.

The difference? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675364)

volunteers were more likely to judge actions solely on the basis of whether they caused harm -- not whether they were morally wrong in themselves

Short of a Doctorate of Philosophy in Ethics, what's the difference?

Re:The difference? (4, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675418)

A lot of activities and mental states which do not harm people are considered morally wrong. For example, homosexuality, coveting and envy, pride, "thoughtcrime" in the novel, 1984, etc.

Re:The difference? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675652)

I argue that if nobody is harmed, it's not immoral. Stupid perhaps (like eating cyanide), but not immoral.

Re:The difference? (2, Insightful)

WNight (23683) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675682)

So they've invented an irrationality filter?

The difference between 'might' and 'did' (4, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675448)

The difference between 'likely to cause harm' and 'did cause harm.' In one question, they asked if it was morally wrong to let your girlfriend walk across a bridge you knew was dangerous, even if she made it to the other side safely. Magnetized folks thought, 'well she made it across, it's morally okay' while other people were more likely to think it was wrong even if she was unharmed this particular time.

Re:The difference? (1)

DdJ (10790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675646)

Sometimes, the difference is simply luck.

You have two snipers. Both intend to shoot blameless strangers in a parking lot. One is very good and hits their target. The other is inept and misses.

Are they both morally wrong?

Apparently, if I understand the assertion, folks without the magnetic manipulation would consider both "wrong". But folks who have had the magnetic treatment would have increased odds of judging the inept sniper to be blameless, since no actually harm occurred.

Perfection (-1, Offtopic)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675378)

After reading the GP on the OP and highlighting the MT on the TP I can only come to one conclusion concerning the subject matter of the article itself.

I for one welcome out cowboyNeal worshipping Dancing Baby overlords but question their ability to run Earth better then a borg augmented Bill Gates. WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong besides Steve Ballmer throwing a chair and breaking the series of tubes we call the Internet. The only thing worse then a suddenOutbreakOfCommonSense coupled with the release of Duke Nukem Forver is the return of Charlie the Unicorn during a Chocolate Rain. In Soviet Russia Snakes on a plane get You but under the new rulership we are as screwed as the Star Wars Kid getting the hookup with a Wii Fit Girl. If you don't think things can get worse, I am fine with that, OK Go. See if I care. But when Dear Leader forces you to do the Hampster Dance in front of the Saugeen Stripper after the JK Wedding Entrance Dance you will beg to be thrown in with those Snakes on a Plane flying to the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny! I know that CorrelationNoCausation may apply here but I am certain that the new overlords computer will be superior to our current technology, but does it run Linux and can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of their computers! My Epeen is huge thinking about it to the point of a joygasm! Perhaps with their technology we could getyourasstomars in the time it takes to watch the Last Lecture! Imagine the number of Libraries of Congress we could store using their technology! Mod me Troll how dare you you insensitive clod! Now to distract you while I steal the Netcraft report confirming Gentoo Linux is dying. LOOK OVER THERE! OMG!!! PONIES!!

Mod parent early (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675420)

OMG!!! PONIES!!??? *checks calendar* *not quite April 1*

What does this mean for MRI scans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675380)

So, does this mean down the road someone can go into an MRI as an altruistic philanthropist and come out a Robert Pickton and blame the MRI scan?

So... (3, Funny)

Jazz-Masta (240659) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675396)

So it isn't just a bad cliche when in the movies the bad guys always run a car salvage/crushing yard with the big electromagnet cranes.

Not going to RTFA; explain? (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675398)

The researchers found that when the RTPJ was disrupted volunteers were more likely to judge actions solely on the basis of whether they caused harm — not whether they were morally wrong in themselves.

What distinction are they making between the two? There are philosophies that would hold the two ideas as identical.

Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675528)

There are philosophies that would hold the two ideas as identical.

So, people who held such a view might analyze the situation the same way, regardless of the applied magnetic effects.

Ah, control groups. So useful.

Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (1)

adonoman (624929) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675566)

There are philosophies that would hold the two ideas as identical.

But those philosophies are only held by people with too much magnetic stimulation.
I am a bit confused about his correlation disclaimer. Is he saying it's possible that people who had the less judgmental morality caused the magnetism? Or that some external factor caused them to become more judgmental and more likely to get their brains magnetized? It seems to me that unless they were lazy and didn't do any proper controls (which would be trivial in this case - just don't turn on the machine), that applying magnetism cause the moral swing. But then, maybe that's why I didn't go to MIT. Perhaps someone can elucidate what I'm missing.

Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (1)

SOdhner (1619761) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675574)

Short answer is that they are less likely to try and take intentions into account. If you don't warn someone that the door they're about to open is booby-trapped but then the bomb is a dud... well, no harm no foul. Whereas without the scrambling we would still say it is wrong to not warn someone about that whole immenant death thing.

Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675600)

The particular example I heard was: a person pours a cup of coffee for their friend, but puts some powder in it before serving. Here are two scenarios:

1) The person believed the powder was poison and intended to poison their friend, but it turned out to be sugar and no harm was done, or
2) The person believed the powder was sugar and intended no harm, but it turned out to be poison and the friend was made sick.

Many people would agree that the action in the first case is immoral, despite the fact that no harm was done, and that the action in the second case is morally innocent if unfortunate. In this experiment, they found that people subjected to the particular magnetic effect on the RTPJ would tend to consider the first case innocent as well, since nothing bad actually happened.

Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (1, Troll)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675672)

No action is morally wrong (or right) in and of itself.

That is just absurd.

Actions are not, cannot be, moral nor immoral without a subjective interpretation. There simply is no objective standard of morality.

Article is a dud on morality; its human perception or consciousness which is being altered.

A human may have a subjective notion that some act is immoral 'in itself' and this subjective notion is a false representation of reality.

What this magnetic field seems to do is to restore a more accurate appraisal of reality to the human being...

Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675744)

For example, subjects were asked to judge how permissible it is for a man to let his girlfriend walk across a bridge he knows to be unsafe, even if she ends up making it across safely. In such cases, a judgment based solely on the outcome would hold the perpetrator morally blameless, even though it appears he intended to do harm.

Tripe like this, apparently.

I'm beginning to wonder whether we should let these researchers continue their morally ambiguous research.

Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (1)

godless dave (844089) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675766)

I was wondering the same thing.

AHH (1)

wedsxcrfv (1662699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675406)

OH SHIT! *puts on tinfoil hat*

More fascinating (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675408)

More fascinating, at least to me, is the area of the brain that works against "ends justify the means".

FTS:

The researchers found that when the RTPJ was disrupted volunteers were more likely to judge actions solely on the basis of whether they caused harm — not whether they were morally wrong in themselves.

I don't know if this has been known before, but the fact that there's an area of the brain that judges actions as moral apart from their consequences is fascinating. It makes sense to judge actions based on known outcomes, but what's the evolutionary advantage to being moral in the abstract?

Re:More fascinating (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675572)

but what's the evolutionary advantage to being moral in the abstract?

You have a better chance of getting laid by the bimbos in Philosophy 101?

Re:More fascinating (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675626)

Well obviously. I took that as a given.

But besides that, presumably we had this moral center before we had Philosophy 101.

Ummm, sample size? (3, Interesting)

musicalmicah (1532521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675414)

A one-point difference on a seven-point scale among only twenty volunteers? Doesn't smell very solid to me.

Tinfoil is now inadequate (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675424)

Mu-metal is the new preferred material for protective headwear.

**AA (0, Offtopic)

burkmat (1016684) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675428)

Anyone care to venture a guess when the RIAA will buy every single black van and large electromagnet within 100km of Washington for... "marketing" purposes?

Military use, ahoy! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675440)

I see a future where they'll have strong electromagnets embedded in military helmets, to ease everyone through the more morally dubious adventures overseas. Of course, in order to invent the helmet, you'd have to be already morally compromised, which would require an existing helmet... Or just a psychopath.

Innocent by reason of magnetism (2, Funny)

Danathar (267989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675446)

Your Honor it was not my fault. The Earth's magnetic field in a fit of anomalous abnormally high activity a half-hour prior to the robbery compromised my frontal lobe's capacity to allow me to understand what I was going to do was wrong......

Alcohol (4, Funny)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675450)

Beer must have an extremely strong magnetic field.... morality goes out the door whenever I consume a few too many.

Re:Alcohol (2, Funny)

rutabagaman (120913) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675700)

Just stop pouring those beers in your ear and you'll be all right.

The real results of the experiment (5, Funny)

Captain Spam (66120) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675452)

After months of grueling research bombarding test subjects with all manner of loud and annoying electromagnetic devices and being told to lie just right so that the readings aren't disrupted at all, the test subjects all said they wanted to kill all the researchers in a variety of gruesome ways and didn't have any moral conundrum with doing so. As there were no noticeable flaws in the experiment, the researchers concluded that magnetism can sway the moral compasses of human beings. Case closed!

Good news! (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675454)

So, if I can just convince my date to climb into an MRI machine, I can finally score with her!

Re:Good news! (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675658)

No, just the machine.

and this is why canada is more liberal than the us (3, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675456)

canada is near the north pole, while the usa is closer to the south pole. the more south you go in the usa in fact, the more conservative the opinion

so clearly north pole=liberal, south pole=conservative

so i will now invent my colossal magnetic northern monopole, hide it in an office tower in dallas texas, and forever alter politics towards the forces of reason and morality! and screw up navigation compasses everywhere!

Re:and this is why canada is more liberal than the (1)

marcobat (1178909) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675780)

you seem to think that North America = USA + Canada = the entire world

Re:and this is why canada is more liberal than the (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675794)

I have a gravimagnetic monopole but unfortunately gravimagnetism is so weak I'm too embarrassed to show it off to my friends. "There, can't you sense that? A spinning force... it feels like you should start dancing... no, huh?" I just keep it in a drawer.

My friends run the political spectrum although only half are even familiar with gravimagnetic dipoles, much less monopoles.

I think this works for radiation too... (2, Funny)

rutabagaman (120913) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675502)

...it would certainly explain why there are so many rude cell phone users :-)

Morality? (2, Interesting)

neostorm (462848) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675508)

What does this mean for someone like me, who lives life by my own idea of morality, which is "Do whatever you want as long as you bring no harm to another"?

Maybe they're interpreting "harm" differently.

Re:Morality? (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675722)

Oh, that's your idea!

Its been around for a while, you might have phrased it differently, more ambiguously with like 5 too many words.

From the TFS you'd probably go from;

"And it (probably) harm none" to "And it (didn't) harm none"

A slight err away from the side of caution more than you're used to, OSHA would not approve.

So when do we expect to see big magnets as accessories to CEO and Board of Directors Chairs?

Re:Morality? (1)

gibson042 (844355) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675820)

the researchers believe that TMS interfered with subjects’ ability to interpret others’ intentions, forcing them to rely more on outcome information to make their judgments

Unless you believe that attempted (but failed) murder is morally permissible, this study is still relevant to you.

Moral on different parts of Earth. (1)

brunokummel (664267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675558)

Considering the variations on magnetism on the surface of Earth, I wonder if the differences of moral in different regions of the globe has anything to do with the variation on the magnetism on the planet.

if it has, i'm getting out of here, unless of course a big earthquake fixes the problem!!

Morality or empathy? (5, Interesting)

DdJ (10790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675576)

From the MIT article: "they found that the subjects' ability to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people's intentions".

They don't appear to have claimed a general change to moral judgments of all types. They're saying that people were less able to make moral judgments that involved modeling someone else's internal state.

What it sounds like to me is, someone found humanity's Asperger switch.

Helm of Opposite Alignment (4, Funny)

Zan Lynx (87672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675580)

So this is how you make a Helm of Opposite Alignment!

Lawful Evil, here I come!

friSt p5ot... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675582)

butts are exposed said one FreeBSD despite the Creek, abysmal for trolls' and exec,utes a it. Do not share project faces a set

Interesting... (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675598)

So we truly do have a moral compass.

I wonder if it is orientation dependent. If I face north, am I less likely to punch somebody in the face?

Hello DARPA grant... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675632)

so in the future if military brain implants ever become common we now know a target area where there is some useless tissue that can be removed...

Sharks with frigging evil beams? (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675636)

Seriously, did anyone else hear the summary in the voice of an old-style B-movie narrator, complete with over-the-top sound effects? This might have creepy implications, one battery powered implant and a bit of training and you could turn anyone into an assassin. But what would happen if you did something heinous, and then turned the implant off? Granted, it seems like this only affects people's ability to judge moral intent, the article doesn't mention anything about losing your morality altogether. Although, the flip side of not being able to judge moral intent might be to do stupidly evil things without being able to intuitively understand the consequences? But the subjects judged the moral outcomes accurately based on the consequences, so perhaps this is just a form of artificially induced utilitarianism? Also, they mention "theory of mind", but before you get all worked up this probably does not correspond to any neurological effect of the autism spectrum... Or perhaps any common naturally occurring brain abnormality?

Sharks with frigging amoral beams? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675832)

There, fixed that for you.

Well, the ethical self-referential question is: (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675642)

is this good ? or is it bad ?

implications (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675644)

Implications are interesting:

1. An army of morally removed individuals, everyone gets an electromagnet attached with a mora-meter, the computer adjusts the necessary dose based on the current situation. So now we see a woman and a child on the battlefield, mora-meter is reading 7.8 on the M-Scale, there is the target of opportunity right behind them and no time to react. Increasing the field strength. Mora-meter is at 1.89. Directive: shoot through the civilians. Outcome: 1 target down, 2 civilian casualties.

2. Cchecking the computer, the audience is reading a collective 6.5. Increasing the m-field strength. The meter is at 2. And god said: stone the homosexuals.... Increase the m-field. Pass the collection plate.

Not morality, superstition (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675656)

The researchers found that when the RTPJ was disrupted volunteers were more likely to judge actions solely on the basis of whether they caused harm -- not whether they were morally wrong in themselves.

Sounds like researchers found the seat of superstition, not morality. The volunteers judged actions on the basis of their actual consequences instead of religious mumbo jumbo. That's not just an interesting finding, it's progress. Maybe science has found a way to get the Pope to spend more time protecting children and less time forgiving child rapists.

Doesn't change much (2, Informative)

digitaldrunkenmonk (1778496) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675678)

A small change in moral response, and even then, it isn't as if they turned off the moral center. Looks like they just caused the subjects to focus on the effect of the action than the reasons behind it. It's almost like they muffled some of the higher reasoning functions behind morality and changed the focus from "The person's action resulted in [x], though he didn't mean it to" to "The person's action resulted in [x]".

They didn't kill morality; they hastened the response to a morally vague event. Black and white, no grey.

In other news... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675690)

"In other news, scientists discover that repeatedly standing in close proximity to magnetic imaging equipment while it is in use degrades the scientist's ability to determine the moral implications of their testing. More at 11."

I'm sure I've seen this before (1)

Risha (999721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675696)

Wasn't this an episode of the Mentalist [imdb.com] ?

What about the age? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675716)

It doesn't say about the age of the volunteers but I'd wager they're all students with no real life experience, I'd like to see them try this with older people, that had their morals tested and tried over the years, all the students have is the theory of what is right and wrong, but with no life experience to reinforce it. Aside from that I'm curious how this affects cops, criminals or others that have their morals tested heavily over the years, without significantly changing their path.

April Fools? (1)

Accersitus (971074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675718)

Is it April first already? Sounds like someone got their date wrong.

if memory serves ... (2, Funny)

Gitcho (761501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675724)

i remember hearing about something one could drink that would achieve similar results ... with the added benefit of making everyone look better ...

Full Moon (1)

wzinc (612701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675734)

Now we need to find-out why more crime, etc happens during a full moon.

Also in the news.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675738)

Congress just ordered all floors on Capitol Hill to be replaced with strong magnets.

Cash Works Too (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675740)

Have those MIT eggheads studied the effects of massive amounts of cash on the moral compass of humans? Is the magnetic susceptibility correlated to the amount of cash required? It would be nice to know just how much I'll need to offer going into the deal. Probably worth a Nobel in economics, that one.

Money (1)

Grand Facade (35180) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675746)

So money must be magnetic?

Never make a decision in an MRI machine? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675754)

I still wonder if these researchers got something wrong in their method/technique because you'd think we'd have noticed changes to people's morality in hi B fields before.

Implications for detection? (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675756)

Discovering that morality is localized is rather amazing. I wonder if this knowledge will eventually be used to determined how active that area is (fMRI?) to quantize a person's integrity. So, for example, to become a judge someone must score above a certain level. Or, more scarily, criminals might undergo forcible treatment to enhance this area. OTOH, this raises the question of whether someone has the right to be immoral or if we as a society can exclude the selfish "cheaters" that get ahead by being anti-social.

I'd imagine the first line of business would be to turn this into some pseudoscientific rubbish that an employer can use to vet job applicants. There's certainly precedent.

Where's the 'ON' switch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675770)

So the magnetic field applied to this region *only* turns our morals "Off"? Okay maybe "Down" on the volume button would be a better analogy...

Moral compass doesn't point north (1)

tpstigers (1075021) | more than 4 years ago | (#31675818)

This whole study strikes me as being rather foolish. Did they change anyone's morals? No. They just slightly altered their responses, which shortly thereafter returned to baseline. I'm more inclined to think this had nothing at all to do with morals and everything to do with volunteers who were slightly confused because of the magnetic fields that had been run through their brains.

cause and reson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31675824)

From the end of the article:
  "Young points out that the study was correlation; their work only links the RTJP, morality and magnetic fields, but doesn't definitively prove that one causes another."

I can confirm that i never have experienced that, when doing moral judgement, suddenly a magnetic field is applied just behind and above my ear.

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