Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1817982
 
 

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The Price of Your Soul: Neural Evidence for the Non-Utilitarian Representation of Sacred Values


Gregory Berns


Emory University

Emily Bell


Emory University

C. Mónica Capra


affiliation not provided to SSRN

Michael Prietula


Emory University - Goizueta Business School

Sara E. Moore


Emory University

Brittany Anderson


Emory University

Jeremy Ginges


University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Institute for Social Research (ISR)

Scott Atran


University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

March 15, 2011


Abstract:     
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, neuroeconomics

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Date posted: April 23, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Berns, Gregory and Bell, Emily and Capra, C. Mónica and Prietula, Michael and Moore, Sara E. and Anderson, Brittany and Ginges, Jeremy and Atran, Scott, The Price of Your Soul: Neural Evidence for the Non-Utilitarian Representation of Sacred Values (March 15, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1817982 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1817982

Contact Information

Gregory Berns (Contact Author)
Emory University ( email )
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
Emily Bell
Emory University ( email )
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
C. Mónica Capra
affiliation not provided to SSRN
No Address Available
Michael Prietula
Emory University - Goizueta Business School ( email )
1300 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322-2722
United States
Sara E. Moore
Emory University ( email )
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
Brittany Anderson
Emory University ( email )
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
Jeremy Ginges
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Institute for Social Research (ISR) ( email )
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248
United States
Scott Atran
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )
701 Tappan St. Rm E2600
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
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