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Counter-intuitive moral judgement following traumatic brain injury

Rowley, Dane A.; Rogish, Miles; Alexander, Timothy; Riggs, Kevin J.


Dane A. Rowley

Miles Rogish


Several neurological patient populations, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), appear to produce an abnormally ‘utilitarian’ pattern of judgements to moral dilemmas; they tend to make judgements that maximise the welfare of the majority, rather than deontological judgements based on the following of moral rules (e.g., do not harm others). However, this patient research has always used extreme dilemmas with highly valued moral rules (e.g., do not kill). Data from healthy participants, however, suggests that when a wider range of dilemmas are employed, involving less valued moral rules (e.g., do not lie), moral judgements demonstrate sensitivity to the psychological intuitiveness of the judgements, rather than their deontological or utilitarian content (Kahane et al., 2011). We sought the moral judgements of 30 TBI participants and 30 controls on moral dilemmas where content (utilitarian/deontological) and intuition (intuitive/counterintuitive) were measured concurrently. Overall TBI participants made utilitarian judgements in equal proportions to controls; disproportionately favouring utilitarian judgements only when they were counterintuitive, and deontological judgements only when they were counterintuitive. These results speak against the view that TBI causes a specific utilitarian bias, suggesting instead that moral intuition is broadly disrupted following TBI.


Rowley, D. A., Rogish, M., Alexander, T., & Riggs, K. J. (2018). Counter-intuitive moral judgement following traumatic brain injury. Journal of neuropsychology, 12(2), 200-215.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 16, 2017
Online Publication Date Feb 7, 2017
Publication Date Jun 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 16, 2017
Publicly Available Date Feb 8, 2018
Journal Journal of neuropsychology
Print ISSN 1748-6645
Electronic ISSN 1748-6653
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 2
Pages 200-215
Keywords Moral judgement; Social cognition; Emotion; Traumatic brain injury; Decision making
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