Neural underpinnings of morality judgment and moral aesthetic judgment

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 14;11(1):18232. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97782-7.


Morality judgment usually refers to the evaluation of moral behavior`s ability to affect others` interests and welfare, while moral aesthetic judgment often implies the appraisal of moral behavior's capability to provide aesthetic pleasure. Both are based on the behavioral understanding. To our knowledge, no study has directly compared the brain activity of these two types of judgments. The present study recorded and analyzed brain activity involved in the morality and moral aesthetic judgments to reveal whether these two types of judgments differ in their neural underpinnings. Results reveled that morality judgment activated the frontal, parietal and occipital cortex previously reported for motor representations of behavior. Evaluation of goodness and badness showed similar patterns of activation in these brain regions. In contrast, moral aesthetic judgment elicited specific activations in the frontal, parietal and temporal cortex proved to be involved in the behavioral intentions and emotions. Evaluation of beauty and ugliness showed similar patterns of activation in these brain regions. Our findings indicate that morality judgment and moral aesthetic judgment recruit different cortical networks that might decode others' behaviors at different levels. These results contribute to further understanding of the essence of the relationship between morality judgment and aesthetic judgment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Beauty*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Connectome
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Morals*
  • Young Adult