Published April 15, 2009
News delivered in a digital, rapid-fire way may confuse a person's "moral compass," a neurological study conducted at the University of Southern California shows.
While humans can very quickly sort through information and respond in fractions of seconds to physical pain in others, it takes much longer for a person to feel admiration and compassion, according to the study.
"For some kinds of thought, especially moral decision-making about other people's social and psychological situations, we need to allow for adequate time and reflection," said study leader Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the USC Rossier School of Education in a university press release.
The study's volunteers needed six to eight seconds to completely respond to stories of virtue or social pain, brain imaging showed.
"If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people's psychological states, and that would have implications for your morality," said Immordino-Yang.
The study was published in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.