Jorge Moll Involved in Morality Experiment with Surprising Results

Jorge Moll is a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health. Recently a study was performed in which participants’ brains were monitored while asking them whether they would rather keep a sum of money or donate it to charity.

Surprisingly, when the participant responded with the charitable response, the brain scan showed that a primitive part of the brain was activated.

What does this mean? Jorge Moll suggests the findings show that altruism, or being unselfish, is hard-wired into our brains and not, per se, directly linked to our sense of morality. The fact that the brain lit up shows that unselfishness is pleasurable to the human body on a basic level.

Neuroscience’s Jorge Moll used the volunteers in the study to demonstrate that the nervous system and brain react in a positive manner to a good deed (donating money) at a primal level – not necessarily something the person learned as right or wrong in their moral upbringing. The brain lights up to generosity the same as it would to food or sex.

So, altruism has biological roots, and it not simply a learned habit. Do not let this be an excuse for poor behavior and a lack of morality, however. If morality is indeed hard-wired into the human form, then we as humans have all the more reason to be in tune with this trait.

Morals, believed in the past to be intellectually related and of free will, are linked more closely to feelings and empathy, the study suggests in which Jorge Moll was involved. Morality is not composed of a decision, but the emotional path of the brain firing its pleasure sensors to come to a decision.

Not all choices are cut and dry. Multiple brain regions can activate in the decision process, providing a game of tug-of-war within sections of the brain. When emotions are competing with logic, the emotional aspect is by evolution’s standards, older of a process and takes priority.

What does this mean to us? Morality, according to Moll’s study, is brain based, automatic and unconsciously done. Your built-in moral compass.

For more information about Jorge Moll, visit


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