Moral Judgement in Episodic Amnesia

Moral Judgement in Episodic Amnesia

Moral Judgement in Episodic Amnesia

Collaborators: Carl Craver (WUSTL), Nazim Keven (WUSTL), Donna Kwan (York), Jake Kurczek (Haverford), Melissa Duff(Iowa) and Shayna Rosenbaum (York)

What, if anything, do the hippocampus and medial temporal lobes contribute to moral judgment? Individuals with episodic amnesia resulting from hippocampal damage have deficits in the abilities to recollect past events (Tulving, 1983; Rosenbaum et al., 2005), imagine future events (Kurczek et al., 2015; Kwan et al. 2012, Rosenbaum et al., 2005), and construct vivid scenes (Hassabis et al., 2007). Such individuals afford a unique opportunity to study moral decision-making when episodic thinking across time is attenuated. According to Greene et al.’s dual process model of moral judgment (2001; 2004; 2014; Amit and Greene 2012), vivid imagining of personal and emotionally conflicting scenarios drives deontological (as opposed to utilitarian) judgments. If so, individuals with impaired ability to vividly imagine themselves in personal scenarios should make more utilitarian judgments in such scenarios than do controls. We report they do not. Thus, episodic memory and future imagining likely do not mediate the effect of personal, emotionally salient scenarios on moral judgment.