The Price of Your Soul: Neural Evidence for the Non-Utilitarian Representation of Sacred Values
C. Mónica Capra
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Emory University - Goizueta Business School
Sara E. Moore
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Institute for Social Research (ISR)
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
March 15, 2011
Sacred values, such as those associated with religious or ethnic identity, underlie many important individual and group decisions in life, and individuals typically resist attempts to trade-off their sacred values in exchange for material benefits. Deontological theory suggests that sacred values are processed based on rights and wrongs irrespective of outcomes, while utilitarian theory suggests they are processed based on costs and benefits of potential outcomes, but which mode of processing an individual naturally uses is unknown. The study of decisions over sacred values is difficult because outcomes cannot typically be realized in a laboratory, and hence little is known about the neural representation and processing of sacred values. We utilized an experimental paradigm that used integrity as a proxy for sacredness and which paid real money to induce individuals to sell their personal values. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that values that people refused to sell (sacred values) were associated with increased activity in the left temporoparietal junction and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, regions previously associated with semantic rule retrieval. This suggests that sacred values affect behavior through the retrieval and processing of deontic rules and not through a utilitarian evaluation of costs and benefits.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Keywords: sacred values, fMRI, neuroeconomicsworking papers series
Date posted: April 23, 2011
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