The effects of deliberating moral dilemmas on decision-making

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lee Covington Graham (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
William Overman

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to determine if active deliberation of either Personal Moral (PM) dilemmas or Impersonal Moral (IM) dilemmas would have an effect on performance during the Iowa Card Task (ICT), a measure of decision-making. Males typically outperform females on the ICT (Bolla et al., 2004; Overman et al., 2004). In men, the predominant areas of the brain that increase in activation during the ICT are the right lateral OFC (BA 47), the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) (BA 9, 10) and the right parietal lobe (BA 40). In women, the predominant area of the brain that shows increased activation during the ICT is the left medial OFC (BA 11) (Bolla et al., 2004). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies reveal that, in contrast to Non Moral (NM) dilemmas, deliberation of IM dilemmas increase neuronal activity the right medial dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) (BA 46), an area associated with working memory, as well as bilateral areas of the parietal lobe (BA 40) (Greene et al., 2004). In addition, deliberation of PM dilemmas increased activation in the medial PFC (BA 9/10), an area involved in social-emotional processing and “higher cognition”, (Greene et al., 2004) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) (BA 24/32), an area associated with the detection of conflict (Moll et al., 2005). In the present experiment, participants performed the ICT while deliberating either an NM dilemma, an IM dilemma, or a PM dilemma after ever 10 trials of the ICT. The main hypothesis is that purported increased activation of areas in the PFC associated with moral deliberation will improve performance of women on the ICT to the level of men. The results support this hypothesis, as women perform the ICT significantly better in the PM condition then either the IM or NM conditions.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Brain--Sex differences, Decision making, Decision making--Moral and ethical aspects, Educational tests and measurements--United States, Psychological tests
Decision making -- Moral and ethical aspects
Decision making
Psychological tests
Brain -- Sex differences
Educational tests and measurements -- United States

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