The study's answer will inform a classic philosophical debate on whether humans make moral judgments based on norms and societal rules, or based on their emotions.
The test basically required people to perform different versions of the trolley problem, asking them to hurt/kill one person in order to save multiple people. Most people have trouble pulling the trigger. The people with damage to a part of the frontal lobe that makes them less emotional "make a less personal calculation." "The logical choice, they say, is to sacrifice one life to save many." Most people are torn between the two choices, but the emotionless people "seem to lack that conflict." Instead, they behave perfectly rationally:
"What is absolutely astonishing about our results is how selective the deficit is," he said. "Damage to the frontal lobe leaves intact a suite of moral problem solving abilities, but damages judgments in which an aversive action is put into direct conflict with a strong utilitarian outcome."
It is the feeling of aversion that normally blocks humans from harming each other. Damasio described it as "a combination of rejection of the act, but combined with the social emotion of compassion for that particular person."
Surprise! This time the sociopaths is not the bad guy.
The study holds another implication for philosophy.By showing that humans are neurologically unfit for strict utilitarian thinking, the study suggests that neuroscience may be able to test different philosophies for compatibility with human nature.
It turns out that utilitarian judgments are sometimes valuable and important and that it's the normal people who have the deficit in making them and the sociopaths who excel.