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Morality depends on a set of cultural rules that regulate interpersonal behaviour and provide a basis for social cohesion. The interpretation of moral transgressions and their affective consequences depends on whether the action is intentional or accidental, and whether one is the agent of or witness to the action. We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate whether the amygdala is involved in judging one's own moral violation of social norms. In this study, participants (n = 12) were asked to make evaluations regarding the degree of inappropriateness of social behaviours described in stories in which they themselves, or someone else, transgressed social norms either intentionally or accidentally. Consistent with our hypothesis, the amygdala was activated when participants considered stories narrating their own intentional transgression of social norms. This result suggests the amygdala is important for affective responsiveness to moral transgressions.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





945 - 950


Adult, Affect, Brain, Brain Mapping, Decision Making, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Morals, Reaction Time, Reference Values, Retrospective Moral Judgment, Social Behavior