A magnetic field applied to a particular region of the brain can impact a person's ability to decide right from wrong.
MIT neuroscientists say it's possible.
"To be able to apply [a magnetic field] to a specific brain region and change people's moral judgments is really astonishing," said MIT's Dr. Liane Young.
A study, originally published in 2007, revealed that a region of the brain called the right temporoparietal junction (RTPJ) is highly active when individuals are faced with determining right from wrong.
In the new MIT study, researchers were able to disrupt that activity, using a magnetic field applied to the scalp.
The results showed that the subjects' ability to make moral judgments was impaired.
In several experiments, volunteers were exposed to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), then asked to make moral judgments based on different scenarios.
The results indicated that, when the magnetic field was applied, subjects would make judgments based on end results, and not the intent of those involved.
For example, volunteers were more forgiving of a boyfriend who walked his girlfriend across an unsafe bridge, despite knowing she could or would get hurt, as long as she ultimately wasn't harmed.
"It's one thing to 'know' that we'll find morality in the brain," Young said. "It's another to 'knock out' that brain area and change people's moral judgments."