Brain activity during moral judgement of action



Interdisciplinary studies of cognitive and neurophysiological mechanisms of moral judgement often combine tools borrowed from philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. In this work, we review the studies of brain activity during moral judgement at different stages of individual development. Generally, it has been shown that moral judgement is accompanied by activations in brain areas related to emotion and social cognition; and these activations may vary across individuals of different age groups. We discuss these data from the positions of the system-evolutionary theory and compare our view with the domain-general approach to cognitive processes and brain activity underlying moral judgement. We suggest that moral judgement, as part of individual behaviour, is supported by activity of functional systems formed at different stages of individual development; therefore brain activity during moral judgement is accounted for by the specificity of distribution of neural elements of functional systems across the brain structures, which is determined by the history of an individual’s interactions with the environment.

General Information

Keywords: morality, moral judgement, brain, emotion, social cognition, system-evolutionary theory, subjective experience, functional systems


Funding. Analysis of experimental research of brain activity during moral judgement of action was supported by RFFR № 18-313-20003_mol_a_ved. Analysis of experimental research of brain activity during moral judgement at different stages of individual development was supported by MSUPE research project «Social aspects of individual experience development during ontogenesis».

For citation: Arutyunova K.R., Sozinova I.M., Alexandrov Y.I. Brain activity during moral judgement of action [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia psikhologiia = Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology, 2020. Vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 67–81. DOI: 10.17759/jmfp.2020090206. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Karina R. Arutyunova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Researcher, V.B. Shvyrkov Laboratory of Neural Bases of Mind, Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Irina M. Sozinova, Researcher, Laboratory of Neurocognitive Research of Individual Experience Institute of Experimental Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Associate Member of the Laboratory of Psychophysiology Named After V.B. Shvyrkov, Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences (FPFIS RAS), Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Yuri I. Alexandrov, Doctor of Psychology, Head the Laboratory of the Institute of Psychology RAS and Head. the Department of Psychophysiology State University of Humanitarian Sciences, Institute of Psychology Russian Academy of Science, head Laboratory of Neurocognitive Research of Individual Experience, Moscow State Psychological and Pedagogical University (FSBEI HE MGPPU), Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Education. Member of the editorial board of the scientific journal "Experimental Psychology", Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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