Looking at Your Brain on Ethics

200850811 Greg Miller in ScienceNOW:

Say you have a load of donated food to deliver to an orphanage in Uganda. But due to circumstances beyond your control, you’re forced to make a hard choice: give some of the children enough meals to stave off hunger for several days and let the rest go hungry, or evenly distribute a smaller amount of food so that each child feels full for just a few hours. A study published online today in Science is one of the first to investigate how the brain wrestles with such morally charged tradeoffs.

Ming Hsu, a behavioral economist now at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues Cédric Anen and Steven Quartz at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor brain activity in 26 volunteers as they grappled with a version of the orphanage conundrum.