How we think??...some clear pictures given below...
We've all had recourse to say: "My head tells me to do one thing, but my
heart says do the other."
Sometimes we are forced to make a decision but we feel ourselves to be pulled in opposite directions by reason and
Thanks to an innovation that has transformed the study of the mind, scientists are now able to see precisely what happens in
the brain in situations like this. For the first time in history we are
getting close to answering the question of whether the heart rules the
This technique allows the measurement of the level of oxygen in the
blood, and tells scientists which parts of the brain are most active. It
can show, for example, the parts of the brain that operate when we fall
in love and when we have food cravings. It has even recently revealed the differences in the brains of Democrats and Republicans.
But the technique also holds out the promise of answering deep questions about our most cherished human characteristics. For example,
do we have an inbuilt moral sense, or do we learn what is right and
wrong as we grow up? And which is stronger: emotions or logic?
Before fMRI, information about the parts of the brain involved in different tasks could only be gathered by studying people who had
suffered brain damage
from trauma or stroke, and seeing how their brain function changed.
Now, the brains of healthy people can be scanned as they are given
"fMRI has provided striking evidence in favor of some theories and against others," said Joshua Greene, of Princeton University's Department of Psychology. "But I don't think
the real payoff has hit yet. That will come when we have successful
computational theories of complex decision-making, ones that describe
decision-making at the level of neural circuits."
Greene, together with Jonathan Cohen, professor of psychology at Princeton, is using fMRI to look at the factors that influence moral judgment.To do so, the researchers scan the brains of volunteers while posing them fiendishly tricky dilemmas. For example, imagine you and your
neighbors are hiding in a cellar from marauding enemy soldiers. Your
baby starts to cry. If he continues, the soldiers will discover your
hiding place and kill you all. The only way to save yourself and the
others is to silence your baby -- by smothering him to death. What do
Clearly, you would feel intense emotions, and this shows on the brain scan. But you would also be forced to make a logical
assessment of the situation, and this shows up on the brain scan too.
Areas involved in abstract reasoning and those that process emotions
light up. In other words, when processing a difficult and
personal moral dilemma, we really are of two minds. Greene found that if
the dilemma is not so personal, the reasoning part of the brain is
When a dispute exists between two sides, say in a court of law or in a territorial land claim, there is often a mediator.
So too, it seems, the brain has one too. Researchers found a region
called the anterior cingulate cortex, believed to be involved in
mediating conflict, was highly active in brains struggling with the
crying baby scenario.
Greene and colleagues showed a neurological basis for the phrase "of two minds," and that both compete
for dominance. So does the heart rule the head? Answer: Sometimes. But
the head doesn't give in without a fight.
And we can use fMRI to go further, and examine how we got to be the way we are. Belgian professor Guy Orban, head of the division of neurophysiology at Katholieke Universiteit
Leuven, uses fMRI to tackle evolutionary questions about the brain. His
experimental subjects look at rotating 3-D images while their brains are
being scanned -- but unlike Greene, Orban's subjects include monkeys as
well as humans.
Orban's research shows pronounced differences in the way the two species process 3-D images. Humans show activity in
regions of the brain (in the visual and intraparietal cortex) that have
no clear counterpart in monkeys.
"The results suggest that, as humans evolved, some portions of their brains adapted to produce
specific abilities, such as controlling fine motor skills," said Orban.
So if we have evidence that human brains have evolved spatial processing abilities from monkey brains -- and it seems that we do --
could we have evolved moral abilities from our primate ancestors too?
Sarah Brosnan, of Emory University, Atlanta, has shown that the idea is plausible. She found that trained monkeys have a sense of fairness: They refuse to work if a fellow monkey doing the same job is seen to receive tastier food items as payment.
"Everything that evolves is a modified version of something else that already evolved," said Greene. "If you can trace the evolutionary
history of the structures involved in a certain kind of thinking then
perhaps you can make the case that the thinking in question is shaped by
the creature's evolutionary history."
Greene is currently working on this idea. "For example," he said, "we might describe the behavior of someone who takes bribes as disgusting. I
think that's more than a simple, learned metaphor."
Greene believes that although cultural influences on morals are strong, an
important genetic element is also present. "Much of what we think of as
culturally learned or individually reasoned in moral judgment," he said,
"may turn out to be driven primarily by evolutionary forces."
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