МосИн'яз курсы английского языка
Центр подготовки к ЕГЭ
Общая информация
Подготовка 1 год
(11 класс)
Подготовка 1,5 года
(10 класс)
О т з ы в ы
В Ы С Ш И Е   К У Р С Ы
иностранных языков
Общая информация
О т з ы в ы
Олимпиада по английскому языку 2013

Клубная карта MosInYaz

Клубная карта MosInYaz Клубная карта MosInYaz

Русские и английские пословицы

Russian and English Proverbs


Rambler's Top100 Яндекс.Метрика
www.gaudeamus.ru     Перейти на новый сайт
Вакансия в IT Отдел МИИЯ карта сайта Карта сайта курсов английского языка
Английский Немецкий Французский Итальянский Испанский Португальский
Турецкий Арабский Китайский Японский


Morality and the Mind
By Svyatoslav Medvedev Director, the Russian Academy of
The brain compels a person to live according to the rules, but it does not make the rules

Some people are said to have no conscience. Little children seem to have none, nor does a ruler who easily breaks his word. Such examples could be easily multiplied. What kind of a creature is conscience? Why do some people have it while others do not? Where does it reside? The answer is, in the brain, as shown by recent experiments conducted at the RAS Institute of the Brain.


Can a person's feelings and emotions be compartmentalized and reduced to physiological processes? In principle, the answer is yes. The same phenomena of the material world are reflected by consciousness differently, but not randomly: There are certain patterns and laws that we physiologists are working to unravel.

Social relations between people are largely predetermined by biological regularities. Biologists are striving to understand the mechanisms - both physical and spiritual - that guide humans. In my field of research, we are looking at how billions of neurons are combined into a single system, and how that system functions.

The human brain is a synthesis of the non-material and the material. Love, desire and conscience are phenomena of the intangible world. But just as music can be recorded on magnetic tape, so these phenomena are matched by certain material processes in the brain. There can be no love without a reorganization of trans-neuronal connections.

Yet love cannot be simply reduced to neurons. This was clearly understood by V. M. Bekhterev, who put forward the concept of dualism, in accordance to which the non-material and the material both exist, but separately, yet at the same time are interdependent. We are attempting to identify the "material substratum [substance]" behind the most complex and subtle mental processes, including feelings and emotions. For example, a team of researchers at our institute, led by Academician N. P. Bekhtereva, is studying the cerebral mechanisms of creativity. These studies help us understand not only the laws underlying the functioning of the brain, but also the law of human behavior and social development.


Recently we asked ourselves a very unusual question: What happens when the brain deceives itself? In other words, what happens when it goes against what is considered to be right and appropriate? For example, in the event of a conflict, a deliberate breach of a rule, or the pangs of conscience. Generally, what are the material foundations of conscience?

Needless to say, conscience is a very broad, comprehensive concept. So we set out to look at what happens in a person's brain when s/he intends to do or is doing something that s/he regards as wrong but necessary - for example, cheating in order to win a game. On the one hand, a lie is necessary for victory; on the other, lying is bad.

But first, a few words about the methods that are used to "see" the non-material in the human brain. Perhaps the most interesting method is direct contact with the brain with the help of so-called implanted electrodes. This is done on medical grounds - for diagnostics or the treatment of certain conditions (e.g., Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, the phantom pain syndrome or obsessiveness). But in addition to therapeutic tasks, this process can also be used for research purposes - e.g., to register different electrical signals that provide extremely valuable information about the work of the brain.

The electroencephalogram (EEG) - a graphic record of the electrical activity of the brain as recorded by an electroencephalograph - enables researchers to receive charts or maps of activation sectors, not only in the cerebral cortex but also in some deep lying structures. This is an entirely new area of research called "brain mapping".

Finally, there are modern methods of IntraVision - positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) - which show what is happening not only on the surface but also inside of the brain, in each of its tiniest sectors, when a particular type of activity is performed. The results were very fascinating.

In a standard experiment, a researcher asks a patient to perform a specific intellectual or physical assignment and then examines what is happening inside the person's brain. This was how one of the most important brain regulators - the so-called detector of mistakes - was discovered.

In 1968, N. P. Bekhtereva and E. B. Grechin registered a change in signals from implanted electrodes when patients with Parkinson's disease made a mistake while undergoing psychological tests. The researchers discovered a mechanism showing a "yellow card" after a mistake was made.

A person performs a great number of daily, routine operations. For example, when leaving the apartment, a person normally turns off the lights or the gas stove without thinking about it - otherwise s/he would constantly have to perform unproductive tasks. This is why there is a matrix of behavior set up on a kind of multiplication table: A person does not do sums s/he simply remembers and uses it automatically. The mistake detection system watches a person's behavior and is silent as long as everything is as it should be. Once a mistake has been made, it issues a warning: At this point, the person will go into the street and "feel" that something is wrong. S/he returns to the apartment to find that the kettle is boiling dry. This is an example of the mistake detection system at work.

It should be noted that a "mistake" here does not refer to an abstract deviation from the truth, but to a violation of a person's stereotype of what might be considered right.

The internal alarm will not go off if you have bet on the wrong number while playing roulette.


Although the reaction of this alarm mechanism to a random mistake has been studied, no one has yet asked the question: "What happens in the brain if a mistake is made deliberately?" In other words, how does the brain react to a lie? We have pursued these questions and received some unexpected results.

In a new experiment, a person undergoing a series of tests is invited to play a kind of a "do you believe this or not" game with the computer. An upward- or downward-pointed arrow appears on the screen, while the subject is required to say in which direction it is pointed. To win, s/he has to tell either the truth or a lie.

We found that even when there is an objective (beneficial) result if a lie is told, the EEG registers a certain wave reflecting the activation of the mistake warning system. Further study showed that the wave occurred as soon as the decision to tell a lie was made. In other words, there is a built-in mechanism that even with a tactically beneficial, expedient but "improper" behavior receives a "yellow card." It is noteworthy that the mechanism does not stop such behavior, but simply registers a breach.

So we registered physiological processes occurring in the human brain that reflect preparations for "inappropriate" behavior. We were surprised to realize that it was in fact functioning as a conscience. Indeed, what is conscience? A mechanism that activates an internal reaction to an act that deviates from the norm (morality, ethics, etc.).

I like the formula: "Conscience does not prevent us from doing evil. It only prevents us from enjoying the result." In other words, conscience is activated when we have violated certain rules by mistake or by design. So when a person is going to tell a lie, s/he has to overcome the "pangs of conscience," as reflected in the wave that we have registered. From a physiological perspective, conscience is a regulator of the work of the brain registering any deviations from the "correct" behavior model.

There is now reason to conclude that we have identified the "material basis" of conscience. Thus our purely scientific result enables us to make a number of conclusions that have a bearing on both the individual and society as a whole.

First of all, conscience is universal. It is "embedded" both in a respected member of society and in a criminal, because the brain cannot function without a mistake identification and warning mechanism. A person cannot live without a conscience, but s/he can be brought up in such a way that the concept of conscience will fundamentally differ from that which other people consider to be right. Remember Huckleberry Finn, who was tortured by pangs of conscience for freeing a fugitive black man. A soldier can have qualms either because he killed his enemies, or because he did not kill them all.

So, conscience is a built-in regulatory mechanism. There is no need to educate conscientious people, but efforts should be made to form core moral principles and provide correct guidance and reference points.

Личный портфель студента
Записаться на курсы онлайн
Заказать обратный звонок
Пройти пробное тестирование онлайн на сайте курсов английского языка в москве
MosInYaz Language Club

национальный проект
"Образование" »
Вакансии на курсах английского языка
На курсах английского языка с Вами работают
Найдите нас на Facebook
Вернуться на страницу высшие курсы английского языка
Лингвистическая школа
© MocИн'яз, 2007 - 2024 Высшие курсы английского языка в МосквеПартнерыПодготовка к ЕГЭ по английскому языку в МИИЯРазработка сайта - Palantis.ru