Cultural Influences on the Neural Correlate of Moral Decision Making Processess

Hyemin Han, Gary H. Glover, & Changwoo Jeong
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Behavioural Brain Research, 259, 215-228. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.11.012

This study compares the neural substrate of moral decision making processes between Korean and American participants. By comparison with Americans, Korean participants showed increased activity in the right putamen associated with socio-intuitive processes and right superior frontal gyrus associated with cognitive control processes under a moral-personal condition, and in the right postcentral sulcus associated with mental calculation in familiar contexts under a moral-impersonal condition. On the other hand, American participants showed a significantly higher degree of activity in the bilateral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) associated with conflict resolution under the moral-personal condition, and in the right medial frontal gyrus (MFG) associated with simple cognitive branching in non-familiar contexts under the moral-impersonal condition when a more lenient threshold was applied, than Korean participants. These findings support the ideas of the interactions between the cultural background, education, and brain development, proposed in the field of cultural psychology and educational psychology. The study introduces educational implications relevant to moral psychologists and educators.