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Anyone can be a killer in certain situations: Study

It is probable that terrorists are able to kill innocent people remorselessly because they see it as a justified act according to a just released study that looks into the neural mechanics of acts of extreme violence.

Activity in the brain, the study argues, varies depending on whether an act of killing is seen as justified or not. In other words theoretically, in certain situations, just about anyone can turn into a killer! The study, led by Monash researcher Dr Pascal Molenberghs, School of Psychological Sciences, is published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

In the study participants engaged in video games that required them to shoot down people. Functional MRI images showed that when they shooting innocent civilians (unjustified violence) as compared to enemy soldiers (justified violence) greater activation was found in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), an important brain area involved in making moral decisions.

“The response in the lateral OFC increased in proportion to the amount of guilt the participants felt. When shooting enemy soldiers, there was no activation in lateral OFC.” In other words, neural mechanisms typically implicated with harming others become less active when violence is seen as justified.

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