Good People With High Morality Have A Different Brain

Altruism, compassion, and advanced evaluation of complex situations from a moral point of view affect the brain not only in an ideological sense, as most people may believe, but also physiologically.

The human body and mind are truly fascinating and hide many mysteries, which are step by step explored and analyzed via modern scientific methodology.

Truth be told, modern science has validated a number of teachings and beliefs, from the wisdom of ancient civilizations, that people believed in for millennia but had not been empirically proven to date. Scientific advances quite often confirm the power, veracity, and effectiveness of the psychology of the ancients.

You will discover in the examples below how scientists have revealed some of the ways in which our moral character manifests in our physical body.

People With High Morals Have More Grey Matter

People with high morality have more grey matter in parts of the brain associated with social behavior, decision-making, and conflict handling, according to a study published on 3 June in the journal Plos One, quoted by The Epoch Times.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, used the stages of moral reasoning described by American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987).

The 76 study participants were asked to evaluate complex moral dilemmas, such as physician-assisted suicide. Based on the responses, it was possible to determine which of the stages of moral reasoning described by Kohlberg each participant fell into.

Subjects then underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare and analyze the volume of grey matter in their brains.

"Further research will be needed to determine whether these changes represent the cause or effect of higher levels of moral reasoning," said Dr. Hengyi Rao, lead author of the study, in a press release.

Practicing Compassion Alters Neural Responses

People who try to become increasingly compassionate have increased activity in parts of the brain associated with empathy and understanding of others, as well as in the parts of the brain responsible for regulating emotions and positive feelings.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published May 21, 2013, in Psychological Science. The main goal of the study was to see if adults could be trained to become more compassionate.

Subjects were asked to imagine a time when someone suffered and to wish that the person's suffering could be ended. They began by thinking of people with whom they had a good relationship and ended by thinking of those with whom they had a conflict. Gradually they learned to feel compassion for everyone, friends and enemies alike.

After the training, the study participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging while looking at images of people suffering. Their neural responses to suffering changed, reflecting greater empathy.

"Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually strengthen their compassion and respond to the suffering of others with caring and a willingness to help," commented Helen Weng, a clinical psychology graduate and lead author of the study.

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