Morality is disgusting

Neuroeconomics is a new science which studies what goes on in the brain during decision-making. What is becoming clear is that people don’t make good decisions unless emotion is involved – as it is those that guide us towards the wisest actions to take.

A unexpected example of this shows up in what is called the Ultimatum Game.

Two volunteers are given the chance to split 10 dollars between them
provided the second volunteer agrees with the first one’s offer. Otherwise both get nothing. Now, if pure reason were involved, everybody would accept every deal offered, for even $1 is better than nothing.

But the actual results show this isn’t so. Nearly all offers that were less than $3 were rejected.

More importantly, brain scans taken from the second players showed that, when an unfair deal was offered, the amygdala (emotion) lights up, as does the dorsolateral
prefrontal cortex
(decision-making), and the insula (associated with a reaction to bad smells – i.e. disgust).

There is a clear link between what we see as criminal activity and repulsion. Disgust drives us to distance ourselves from immoral or unfair people even if it costs us personally.

Now, emotion-based decisions like this are traditionally seen as
‘irrational’ by old-style scientists. But neuroeconomics shows us that
Bodymind may have larger purposes in view. And that is to try and teach
some people that – in the long run – exploitation doesn’t pay.