Are punishment and morality independent?

How your brain decides blame and punishment—and how it can be changed

Juries in criminal cases typically decide if someone is guilty, then a judge determines a suitable level of punishment. New research confirms that these two separate assessments of guilt and punishment – though related — are calculated in different parts of the brain. In fact, researchers found that they can disrupt and change one decision without affecting the other. New work by researchers at Vanderbilt University and Harvard University confirms that a specific area of the brain, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, is crucial to punishment decisions. Researchers predicted and found that by altering brain activity in this brain area, they could change how subjects punished hypothetical defendants without changing the amount of blame placed on the defendants. ….[READ]

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