Spectral Parameters of Heart Rate Variability as Indicators of the System Mismatch During Solving Moral Dilemmas
Variability in beat-to-beat heart activity reflects the dynamics of
heart-brain interactions. From the positions of the system evolutionary theory,
any behaviour is based on simultaneous actualization of functional systems
formed at different stages of phylo- and ontogenesis. Each functional system is
comprised by neurons and other body cells, the activity of which contributes to
achieving an adaptive outcome for the whole organism. In this study we
hypothesized that the dynamics of spectral parameters of heart rate variability
(HRV) can be used as an indicator of the system mismatch observed when
functional systems with contradictory characteristics are actualized simultaneously.
We presented 4–11-year-old children (N = 34) with a set of moral
dilemmas describing situations where an in-group member achieved optional
benefits by acting unfairly and endangering lives of out-group members. The
results showed that LF/HF ratio of HRV was higher in children with developed
moral attitudes for fairness toward out-groups as compared to children who
showed preference for in-group members despite the unfair outcome for the outgroup.
Thus, the system mismatch in situations with a moral conflict is shown to
be reflected in the dynamics of heart activity.