The dual-process theory of moral judgment by Joshua Greene has influenced
much of contemporary research on moral cognition. The dual-process research paradigm can
be argued to have yielded fruitful results. The results in general often indicate a dichotomy
between reasoning and emotional mechanisms. These results are interpreted in the existing
theoretical framework as producing specific differentiations in moral judgment among test
subjects. The experimental conditions expose subjects to moral dilemmas during functional
brain scanning. A competitive interaction between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and
ventromedial prefrontal cortex has been identified to affect subjects’ response. During more
recent years, critique aimed at the dual-process theory that falls into three main categories has
been raised against this paradigm. These problems may have negative effects on the results
derived from the dual-process paradigm. In this essay I will review problems within the
framework of the dual-process theory that concern terminology, where concepts tied to
normative ethics, can be misleading.
Researchers have also identified methodological
problems that are proposed to create extraneous emotional variables unaccounted for in the
I compare results and proposals from initial studies with the critique and
go through normative issues concerning what ethical conclusions neuroscientific data derived
from dual-process paradigm could give. My conclusion is that the dual-process theory is a
functional descriptive theory that needs to redefine its concepts, multiply emotional spectrum
analysis and divide itself from normative claims.
2015. , 47 p.
Utilitarianism, moral judgment, moral psychology, dual-process theory, vmPFCdamage, psychopathy