Neuroethics in deontological and utilitarian contexts. ERP and “biofeedback” analysis on emotional effect

Michela Balconi, Andrea Terenzi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Introduction Research in neuroethics and neuroscience now accepts the idea that emotions play a significant role in decision-making (Damasio 1994). We tried to demonstrate that emotional contribution is present in all our ethical choices, by using neuropsychological measures, that is ERPs (event-related potential measures) and autonomic correlates (SCR, PULS and BVP measures) (Balconi & Terenzi, in press). Methods 25 subjects students took part in the study. A battery of moral dilemmas was furnished to them and they were required to express their option: not to violate our moral values (deontological option) with negative consequence for other people; and to ensure that our acts have positive consequences by violating our moral values (utilitarian option). Results The computerized peak detection revealed the presence of a N200 peak deflection in both deontological and utilitarian options. In previous research it was underlined the emotional significance of this ERP deflection. Also the autonomic values did not reveal significant differences between deontological and utilitarian responses, since they both showed an increased SCR, PULS and BVP. Conclusions Thus we may conclude that the deontological and the utilitarian choices include a similar emotional response.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the ESN
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event3rd Meeting of the ESN - Basilea
Duration: 7 Sept 20119 Sept 2011


Conference3rd Meeting of the ESN


  • neuropsychology


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