Scientists Say ‘Sense of Justice is Driven by Reason’ not Emotion

Sense of justice and fairness is always associated with emotional judgement, it is thought that individuals sensitive to justice are emotionally driven but a new research at the University of Chicago has uncovered a surprising reason behind sensitivity to justice. People inclined towards justice are swayed more by reason than emotion.

Researchers used brain scans to analyze the thought process of people with ‘high justice sensitivity’. By using a functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) brain scanning device, they studied the brain activity as the subjects watched videos showing behavior that was morally good or bad like seeing a person put money in the beggar’s cup or kick the beggar’s cup away. They were asked how much they would blame or praise the person in the video and to complete  questionnaires that assessed cognitive and emotional empathy and their justice sensitivity.

Those who scored high on the justice sensitivity assigned significantly more blame when asked to evaluate scenes of harm and also praised more the act of an helping person. But it was the brain scans that surprised the scientists.

During the behavior-evaluation exercise, people with high justice sensitivity showed more activity in the parts of brain associated with higher order cognition as compared to an average subject whereas the areas of brain concerned with emotional processing were not affected at all. Thus proving that individuals sensitive to justice are cognitively driven, not emotionally as everyone thinks.

So the search of justice does not primarily come from the sentimental motivations like portrayed rather it comes from reason and mental sophisticated analysis.

When evaluating good actions, a high  activity in the regions of brain involved on decision making, motivation and reward was shown, answering why some people react more strongly to justice related situations and why they value justice more than others. The findings also suggest that individuals make judgement about behavior based on how they process the reward value of good actions as compared to bad actions.

This research is first ever to show that justice sensitivity enhances neural processing of moral information in specific parts of the brain.