Thursday, December 30, 2010

Magnets: Lowering Morals Since 2010

In April 2010, Liane Young and the fine people at MIT and Harvard reportedly discovered a way to lower peoples' moral judgement using transcranial magnetic stimulation. The procedure "briefly disrupts neural processing with a magnetic field induced by electric current".

20 volunteers were asked to judge 24 scenarios that involved moral questionable behaviour on a 7 point scale. The scale ranged from morally forbidden to morally permissible. After ranking each scenario, the volunteers' brains were then stimulated in their temporoparietal junction aka
"a region theorized to play a role in our ability to figure out others' intentions"
and ranked the 24 scenarios once more. After being stimulated, the subjects consistently ranked the actions of the characters closer to the morally permissible side.

Young's interpretation to this study was that once the subjects were "zapped" they tended to focus more on the outcome (nobody died) opposed to the intent of the character in each scenario.

I would like to conclude by quoting the last paragraph of this article by Daniel Lametti:
"Manipulating morality with a magnet may sound diobolical, but Young has no interest in mind control. Her goal, she explains, is to learn more about why intentions matter to us when we make moral judgements."


  1. interesting.... they must be putting magnetic forces in beer....

  2. hahahaha! I think you may be onto something



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