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  • William J. Shoemaker

    1. William J. Shoemaker is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine. He can be contacted at MC 1410, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030-1410, USA; e-mail:
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Abstract The moral nature of humanity has been debated and discussed by philosophers, theologians, and others for centuries. Only recently have neuroscientists and neuropsychologists joined the conversation by publishing a number of studies using newer brain scanning techniques directed at regions of the brain related to social behavior. Is it possible to relate particular brain structures and functions to the behavior of people, deemed evil, who violate all the tenets of proper behavior laid down by ancient and holy texts, prohibiting lying, cheating, stealing, and murder? Is it possible that the recently discovered “mirror neurons” in the brain are the basis for empathy and that deficits in these brain cells lead to severe difficulty in relating socially to other people, including parents and siblings? What do we make of reports that the fusiform face area in the temporal lobe of the brain is specialized for the perception of faces and that defects in this region are seen regularly in individuals who are psychopathic.