Neuroscience and Virtue
Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) of narratives from virtuous exemplars.
Project will analyze self-descriptive narratives from 2 groups of exemplars of virtue:
- Holocaust rescuers
- Long-time caregivers in L’Arche communities for the mentally handicapped.
Texts will be analyzed with respect to target texts that denote religiously-based transcendence, non-religious transcendence, and non-transcendent human compassion.
Identification of new exemplars of virtue
Project will attempt to identify individuals who manifest the virtues of fairness and generosity and compassion using 2 games similar to those used in modern economic research:
- The public goods game (willingness to continue to contribute to a fund for the public good when not everyone else is doing so).
- The rescuer game (willingness to take personal risk to aid others being unfairly treated)
Semantic analysis, using LSA narratives of from new exemplars
The same LSA probes will be used to analyze (#1, above) the self-descriptive narratives of the exemplars that we identify using the economic games (#2, above), and compare the outcomes to the LSA results from Holocaust rescuers and L’Arche caregivers.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
fMRIs will be used to reveal patterns of brain activation while exemplars and non-exemplars are viewing videos of the actions of others, which manifest fairness, generosity, or compassion.
Discussions will be held among a consortium of philosophers, theologians, psychologists, economists, and cognitive neuroscientists regarding the nature of virtue, the adequacy of research paradigms with respect to virtue, and the nature of a transcendent view of the self and the world.