Heart rate correlates of utilitarian moral decision-making in alcoholism

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Publication Details

Author list: Carmona-Perera M, del Paso GAR, Perez-Garcia M, Verdejo-Garcia A
Publisher: Elsevier: 12 months
Publication year: 2013
Volume number: 133
Issue number: 2
Start page: 413
End page: 419
Number of pages: 7
ISSN: 0376-8716
Languages: English-Great Britain (EN-GB)


Background: Recent studies of moral reasoning in patients with alcohol use disorders have indicated a 'utilitarian' bias, whereby patients are more likely to endorse emotionally aversive actions in favor of aggregate welfare (e.g., to kill a person in order to save a group of people). The aim of the present study was to examine psychophysiological correlates of this tendency indexed by heart rate.Methods:The sample was composed by 31 alcohol-dependent individuals and 34 healthy controls without alcohol use disorders. Electrocardiogram was recorded at rest and during execution of a validated moral judgment task, including non-moral scenarios, and moral dilemmas that were either high in emotional salience ("personal scenarios") or low in emotional salience ("impersonal scenarios").Results: Alcohol-dependent individuals showed a blunted response to moral dilemmas. Furthermore, healthy controls displayed decreased heart rate to the personal vs. impersonal or non-moral scenarios, while alcohol-dependent individuals failed to differentiate dilemmas in terms of heart rate both prior decision-making and its post appraisal. These deficits were not related to baseline differences in Heart Rate.Conclusion: Our findings indicate that alcohol-dependent individuals failed to engage emotional aversive reactions to personal moral violations in terms of heart rate response. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


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Last updated on 2019-23-08 at 11:15