An integrative cognitive neuroscience theory of social reasoning and moral judgment

Authors

  • Aron K. Barbey,

    1. Cognitive Neuroscience Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
    2. Department of Psychology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA
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  • Jordan Grafman

    Corresponding author
    1. Cognitive Neuroscience Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
    • Cognitive Neuroscience Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
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Abstract

Cognitive neuroscience has made considerable progress in understanding the involvement of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in social cognition and moral judgment. Accumulating evidence suggests that representations within the lateral PFC enable people to orchestrate their thoughts and actions in concert with their intentions to support goal-directed social behavior. Despite the pivotal role of this region in guiding social interactions, remarkably little is known about the functional organization and forms of social knowledge mediated by the lateral PFC. Here, we review recent theoretical developments in evolutionary psychology and emerging evidence from the social and decision neuroscience literatures demonstrating the importance of the lateral PFC for orchestrating behavior on the basis of evolutionarily adaptive social norms for obligatory, prohibited, and permissible courses of action. WIREs Cogn Sci 2011 2 55–67 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.84

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