Questions for ‘What part of us knows right from wrong?’


Your conscience is what helps you decide whether your actions or impulses are good or bad, right or wrong. 

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To accompany feature “What part of us knows right from wrong?


Before Reading

1. What do you think it means to have a conscience? 

2. What emotions do you feel when you help others? What about when you realize you’ve done something wrong?

During Reading

1.   Real people don’t have a conscience that speaks to them out loud like Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket. Instead, how does conscience work?

2.   Why do anthropologists think humans may have evolved to be so cooperative?

3.   In Katharina Hamann’s study of chimpanzees and human toddlers, both had to work with partners to get a prize. What was the difference in how chimps ands kids shared their treats afterward?

4.   According to Hamann, what are the two ways that human children develop a conscience?

5.   How did Robert Hepach and Amrisha Vaish measure bad feelings in toddlers’ faces?

6.   In Hepach and Vaish’s study, what action made young children feel better after they’d made a mess?

7.   How do scientists study which brain areas are involved in moral decisions?

8.   What does the brain’s “default mode network” do?

9.   Another brain network is called the “pain matrix.” What does this group of brain areas do? How does it relate to empathy?

10.   What is the “decision-making network”?

After Reading

1.   How do regions throughout the brain work together to make up the moral network?  

2.   Imagine that your conscience is a separate creature that talks to you, like Jiminy Cricket. What kind of animal would be your conscience? What’s the most recent thing it told you?