Scientific studies show that rats will forgo food, if each time they receive it, their neighbor without food receives a shock. It’s interesting that animals display compassion, even though we don’t know what they are thinking. So, is it possible that humans brains are hard-wired to have the same type of natural giving towards others? Studies say, “yes!”
Jorge Moll and his colleague Jordan Grafman were studying brain scans of volunteers at The National Institutes of Health (ABC.com). During the scan, volunteers were asked to think about donating a large sum of money, and then keeping a large sum of money for themselves. While conducting this study they received an email relating another study of the brain. It stated, when volunteers placed the interest of others above their own, it activated a primitive part of the brain. The same area of the brain that is activated when food or sex is involved. This study was leaning towards the idea that suppressing basic urges is not just a superior moral choice but a basic function that was hard wired and brought pleasure to the brain.
Moll and Grafman’s studies align with other recent studies that have been done on the brain. Each points to the idea that the brain’s moral compass may, in fact, be a built-in biological function. These scientific studies continue to highlight the notion that moral decisions are tied to emotions.
Studies like Jorge Moll and Grafman’s continue to point to a pattern in the brain. When we are faced with moral decisions, the networks in the brain compete for the right to make the decision. Simple moral decisions are simple because they activate a straightforward response. For example, is killing a child wrong? Naturally, we feel it is wrong and is quick to respond so. On the other hand, more difficult moral decisions activate many areas of the brain and we see the gray areas in the decision as each part of the brain tries to overrule our judgment. Following actions and studying the primitive area of the brain we basically find we designed and hard-wired to be naturally good.
More about Jorge Moll at https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/d-or-institute-of-research-and-education-idor