Researchers have revealed that damage to the brain area that controls social emotions may change the way people respond to hard moral problems. This study reveals that empathy and other feelings may play an important role in life-or-death decisions.

Study involved people who suffered these specific brain injuries and healthy people with no damage. They were then asked to resolve hypothetical dilemmas like whether they would toss one person over the bridge in order to save five others. Those who suffered damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex decided they would sacrifice one in order to save five more while participants with intact brains had issues with harming someone in the same situation.

Study results suggest that an aversion to hurting others may be hard-wired into the brain.
However, these findings cannot be used for predicting actual behaviors since the scenarios were unrealistic. It is still not certain if people with and without brain injuries would act differently when caught in the real-life situations.

When being asked about non moral issues, answers from the study participants did not differ. Also, all study participants would not harm a person for the personal benefit of another.

Mirella Dapretto, associate professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, who did not take part in the research, says that brain may not work so simply. It is very likely that having the courage to push someone off a bridge may be influenced by the fact that these people did not understand how their actions would be evaluated by others.