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Aesthetics and morality judgments share cortical neuroarchitecture


Heinzelmann, Nora C; Weber, Susanna C; Tobler, Philippe N (2020). Aesthetics and morality judgments share cortical neuroarchitecture. Cortex, 129:484-495.

Abstract

Philosophers have predominantly regarded morality and aesthetics judgments as fundamentally different. However, whether this claim is empirically founded has remained unclear. In a novel task, we measured brain activity of participants judging the aesthetic beauty of artwork or the moral goodness of actions depicted. To control for the content of judgments, participants assessed the age of the artworks and the speed of depicted actions. Univariate analyses revealed whole-brain corrected, content-controlled common activation for aesthetics and morality judgments in frontopolar, dorsomedial and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. Temporoparietal cortex showed activation specific for morality judgments, occipital cortex for aesthetics judgments. Multivariate analyses revealed both common and distinct whole-brain corrected representations for morality and aesthetics judgments in temporoparietal and prefrontal regions. Overall, neural commonalities are more pronounced than predominant philosophical views would predict. They are compatible with minority accounts that stress commonalities between aesthetics and morality judgments, such as sentimentalism and a valuation framework.

Abstract

Philosophers have predominantly regarded morality and aesthetics judgments as fundamentally different. However, whether this claim is empirically founded has remained unclear. In a novel task, we measured brain activity of participants judging the aesthetic beauty of artwork or the moral goodness of actions depicted. To control for the content of judgments, participants assessed the age of the artworks and the speed of depicted actions. Univariate analyses revealed whole-brain corrected, content-controlled common activation for aesthetics and morality judgments in frontopolar, dorsomedial and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. Temporoparietal cortex showed activation specific for morality judgments, occipital cortex for aesthetics judgments. Multivariate analyses revealed both common and distinct whole-brain corrected representations for morality and aesthetics judgments in temporoparietal and prefrontal regions. Overall, neural commonalities are more pronounced than predominant philosophical views would predict. They are compatible with minority accounts that stress commonalities between aesthetics and morality judgments, such as sentimentalism and a valuation framework.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Experimental and cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology and physiological psychology, values, morality, aesthetics, decision-making, MVPA
Language:English
Date:August 2020
Deposited On:06 Nov 2020 13:30
Last Modified:18 Nov 2020 08:44
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0010-9452
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2020.04.018
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPP00P1_128574
  • : Project TitleThe neural basis of economic and moral utility
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID200020-100014
  • : Project TitleApplications of nonliner spectroscopy to the study of ultrafast photoinduced processes
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPP00P1-114788
  • : Project TitlePsychosocial and neurobiological bases of social interaction: Basic mechanisms and clinical implications
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100014_165884
  • : Project TitleThe role of dopamine in value-based decision making
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPP00P1_150739
  • : Project TitleThe neural basis of economic and moral utility
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPBBS1--104386
  • : Project TitleStaatlichkeit in einem abhängigen Gebiet als Spannungsfeld zwischen Tribu und der globalisierten Welt

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