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The Science Behind: Your Conscience

POV: You're stuck on a problem during your math test. Your teacher isn't looking and you have a calculator beside you. Do you use it even though you're not supposed to? Or do you do your test the honest way? This is truly a battle of conscience. But how does our conscience work?

But, Why? Scientists don't know the answer for sure, but they do have an idea of what goes on in our head with our conscience. Scientists thought there would be one certain area in our brain that controls our morals. This proved to be inaccurate. There are several! These areas most likely work together to become what scientists refer to as "a moral network". This one network composes into three other networks.

More about the Networks... Dr. Fiery Cushman, a psychologist specializing in morality, says that these three smaller networks have their unique function. One lets us understand others, another allows us to care about others, and the third combines both of the principles of the previous two networks into one by helping us make decisions based on our understanding and caring of others. The Default Network: The first network that I listed (it's about understanding others) is called the default network. It helps us see things from the perspective of others so that we can understand what they think about a situation or concept. The network also includes parts of our brain that activate when we daydream since daydreaming involves people. When we think about the actions and decisions of others, we are daydreaming. For example, when you want to help your mom or dad with the dishes because you think that they must be super tired from work, you are daydreaming about their experiences at work and what they must have done. The Pain Matrix: This network lights up when someone feels pain. That's why it's called the pain matrix. This network is also connected to empathy. The more empathetic someone is, the more the default and pain matrix networks align. You daydream more about how others feel (from the default network) and you feel more pain for them (as in the pain network). Basically, the pain matrix allows us to feel more connected to others and care for them more.

The Decision-Making Network: The overall name of this network displays what it's purpose is. In this one, people weigh the benefits and costs of an action they will conduct or have conducted. The decisions are based on our understanding of others and how much we care for them or the situation someone faces. For example, let's say you see a homeless person on the street. You used to be in the same situation as them, so, out of empathy, you hand them a 20 dollar bill to make their day a bit better. Your decision to donate was based on your understanding of others.

Now, let's go back to your math test. You see that it's wrong and not fair to your classmates who are working hard on their test and your teacher, who spends countless hours to grade your test. You remember this and shift your attention from the calculator back to the problem. With enough thinking, you figure it out. And guess what? As your teacher passes back the tests a week later, you find a big bright A+!

Follow the angels, not the devils!






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