It’s wartime, and an enemy doctor is conducting painful and inevitably fatal experiments on children. You have two kids, ages 8 and 5. You can surrender one of them within 24 hours or the doctor will kill both. What is the right thing to do?
For most people, this scenario based on one in William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice is almost an impossible dilemma.
But for a group of people with damage in a part of the brain’s frontal lobe that helps govern emotions, the decision is far clearer. They would allow one child to die.
Scientists say a study involving these people has produced unique insights into the brain mechanics of moral decision making and shows that in some key situations emotions play a fundamental role in moral judgements.
(Thanks Ulysses Lazarus!)
(see also: Re-Thinking Disorders).