The effect of deontological guilt on immoral behaviour: evidence from a clinical and a brain stimulation study

Proponente Maria Serena Panasiti - Professore Associato
Sottosettore ERC del proponente del progetto
Componenti gruppo di ricerca
Componente Categoria
Matteo Candidi Componenti strutturati del gruppo di ricerca
Ilaria Bufalari Componenti strutturati del gruppo di ricerca

Deontological Guilt (DG) and Altruistic Guilt (AG) emerge from the appraisal of violating an introjected rule (DG) and of behaving in non-altruistic way (AG), respectively. DG has been suggested to play a pivotal role in the development and maintenance of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and to be associated to the activation of the insula. Consistently, OCD patients show an hyperactivation of the insula in context associated with DG and disgust. Previous studies have shown that after DG induction, healthy participants respond to hypothetical moral dilemmas (e.g. turn a trolley and kill one person to save many) with an higher rate of omissions (following the deontological principal according to which no man -only God- can decide who should live or die). This behavior is consistent with that of OCD patients in the same kind of dilemmas.
However, how DG might differentially impact real (not hypothetical) moral decisions (i.e., whether to deceive or not another person) in patients with OCD has not been explored yet. We collected preliminary data showing that DG induction made healthy participants, especially those with high sensitivity to disgust, behave more immorally. This suggests that experiencing DG leads people, particularly those high in Disgust Sensitivity, to experience a decrement in their own moral value which translates into higher immorality.
The aim of this project is to carry on two studies in order to test whether: i) DG induction might differently affect moral decision in OCD patients and healthy controls and ii) the inhibition of the insula via cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over temporal areas, would decrease the effect of DG on moral behaviour in healthy controls.
The results of this project will contribute: i) to a better understanding of the role of DG on OCD patients¿ moral behaviour and; ii) to proving the efficacy of brain modulation in reducing the impact of emotion on subsequent moral behaviour.

SH4_3, SH4_2

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