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Understanding the Empathic and Moral Brain: A neuroscientific approach

posted on 11.01.2017, 03:37 by Robert Eres
Our ability to empathise and make moral decisions can facilitate prosocial behaviour. However, sometimes people act immorally or they do not sympathise with others. The purpose of my research was to further understand how specific conditions influence the neural mechanisms involved in empathy and morality.
   The first chapter of this thesis provides the necessary conceptual backbone for understanding empathy and morality. In the second chapter, the literature is reviewed surrounding the influence of group membership on the neural correlates involved in empathy. In chapter three, a voxel-based morphometry study is presented which shows that individual differences in cognitive and affective empathy are associated with differences in grey matter density in specific brain regions.
   Chapter four presents a large-scale activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis, showing different contexts in moral tasks results in recruitment of different neural networks. Chapter 5, investigates internet piracy and shows, across three studies, that people experience less guilt when stealing non-physical property. The final chapter summarises the findings, and discusses limitations, and future research avenues.


Principal supervisor

Pascal Molenberghs

Additional supervisor 1

Winnifred Louis

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Psychological Sciences


Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences