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Joshua Greene

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Joshua D. Greene is the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University

Biographical informationEdit



Main areas of interestEdit

His main area of interest is in moral judgement and decision making. He has used the trolley problem as a tool for exploring tese areas. In taking a neuroscientific approach to the trolley problem, he[1] under Jonathan Cohen decided to examine the nature of brain response to moral and ethical conundra through the use of fMRI. In their more well-known experiments,[2] Greene and Cohen analyzed subjects' responses to the morality of responses in both the trolley problem involving a switch, and a footbridge scenario analogous to the fat man variation of the trolley problem. Their hypothesis suggested that encountering such conflicts evokes both a strong emotional response as well as a reasoned cognitive response that tend to oppose one another. From the fMRI results, they have found that situations highly evoking a more prominent emotional response such as the fat man variant would result in significantly higher brain activity in brain regions associated with response conflict. Meanwhile, more conflict-neutral scenarios, such as the relatively disaffected switch variant, would produce more activity in brain regions associated with higher cognitive functions. The potential ethical ideas being broached, then, revolve around the human capacity for rational justification of moral decision making.

Funded grantsEdit


Editorial board/consulting editorEdit

Association affiliationsEdit

Notable studentsEdit



Book ChaptersEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. Homepage of Joshua Greene
  2. Joshua D. Greene, "The secret joke of Kant’s soul", in Moral Psychology, 2008, Vol. 3: The Neuroscience of Morality, W. Sinnott-Armstrong, Ed., (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)

External linksEdit

Harvard webpage

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