Attracted to Evil?

In transcranial magnetic stimulation (“TMS”), a coil of wire is placed near the head. Alternating current flowing through the coil induces a magnetic field with a strength of up to 2.5 teslas (one tesla is 20,000 times the strength of the earth’s magnetic field). The field passes harmlessly through the skull and influences the electrical Brain_magnetsignals passing among neurons in the brain.

(Image and quote from Progress Daily.)

TMS has been used to stimulate or suppress different centers of the brain including those involved with attention, language and memory.   A new paper in PNAS used TMS to disrupt part of the brain involved in judging intention and morality.  Here is a summary:

Magnets can alter a person's sense of morality, according to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Using a powerful magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes….

Magnetic fields made people judge outcomes more than intentions.

The effect was small and temporary but no less disturbing especially if the effect could be made to operate at a distance.  Perhaps the tin-foil-hat-people have had it right all along.


If this is true, it is disturbing. But as a radiologist, I can let you know the only way to create an magnetic field that high is with superconduction and the effect is only within a tightly enclosed cylinder. You won't get that strength even if you're right next to but not in the cylinder/machine, even with the higher strength experimental 7 or 9T magnets available. So unless you're drugged, threatened or forced within the zone of 2T, you'll be ok. And if you're drugged, treatened or forced, what's the point of "mind control" with a magnet anyway?

Why is it bad to "judge outcomes more than intentions"? Isn't the basic lesson of Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" that we ought to figure out the outcomes before doing purportedly good things?

To add to the list of commentaries as a cognitive neuroscientist, I can say that it is not at all clear that "the effect could be made to operate at a distance" for any study involving TMS.

And that's to say nothing of the very obvious signs that TMS is being applied to you, such as muscle twitches, which make it virtually impossible to use TMS as a means of "covert" mind control.

"Magnetic fields made people judge outcomes more than intentions."

Repeat after me: Magnets. In. Voting booths.

Alex, you can't focus magnetic fields in the way you are thinking. The very best you could do, with great effort, would be to have the subject step into a very small room. And maintaining the high magnetism on only one spot in their brain would be even harder, since they would presumably be moving around.

The highest magnetic fields are produced by electromagnets in short bursts: . Super conducting magnets can get quite strong but their advantage is in the uniformity of the magnetic field not in raw strength. Also they would be inappropriate for this technique because of their inability to produce rapidly changing magnetic fields.

The issue here is not just field strength but the rate of change of the magnetic field. A changing magnetic field induces a current. This current inside the brain is what scrambles the moral center. The strength of the magnetic field drops off rapidly so for this to work a small coil (to act as an electromagnet) and power source would have to be placed on the "subjects" head with out him/her noticing. The mark would also have to not notice the heat being dissipated by the coil when current is flowing through it. This is highly unlikely to develop into a covert mind influencing device much less mind control.

If you want to see the problem with judging outcomes rather than intentions, observe a 2 year old. To a 2 year old, if you make any incorrect statement then you're a liar, and if you eat her pizza because you mistakenly believe it's yours then you're a thief. Intentionality is irrelevant. That is the effect that the magnets induce on the adults in this experiment.

Wow. What does this mean for cochlear implant users? There's a magnet attached to the head directly up and behind the ear, which also apparently happens to be the region where these moral decisions are made.

@ Pedro.

I don't care why you ate my pizza; all I care about is that I don't have my pizza anymore.
I don't care about why I was told an incorrect statement; all I care about is that I had bad information.

However, knowing that someone tends to lie or steal is useful information in terms of future outcomes. E.g., if you tend to steal my pizza, then I'll be sure to not leave my pizza unattended in your vicinity. But that's not a concern about intentions; it's a concern about my pizza disappearing again. In that sense, knowing the intentions of others has a direct bearing on future outcomes. Thus, intentions are useful to know, but that doesn't mean they have any effect in and of themselves. In how my life is actually affected, I don't care what someone is thinking about when they steal my pizza.

Fascinating that scientific experiments in this is done. I remember in the movie 28 Days Later though that the zombie plague was started in lab experiments on the nature of evil though so they better watch out, haha.

But seriously, the attraction for evil is ingrained in humans. You can see this in business where one guy cheats another guy, on DirtyPhoneBook where the anonymity insapires people to be evil towards their fellow man, and basically anywhere else you look.

Everything is attracted to evil - just in different degrees with different emphases.

Equally, aluminum foil isn't going to stop those intense magnetic fields very well. Especially without completely encasing the head.

Rodolfo Llinas explains a similar procedure of using a magnet to stimulate the motor cortex and make someone move a limb in a particular direction. It will work even if the person knows it is going to happen and plans to move the limb in the opposite direction, and the person will also feel as though he decided to move it inwards. The magnet literally changes his mind. Llinas later speculates that you could put 30-nanometer wires in the blood vessels of the brain ... which would let you use the same principle as complete, precise mind control, with the wired person unable to distinguish the magnetically derived impulses from anything he generated himself.

Sounds to me like a "vote against the Democrats" ray -- since it makes you stop believing what people say their intentions are, and makes you focus instead on what the results of their actions are.

I think the reason is evil characters are honest to themselves and they live in a disillusioned world.The evil characters are compelled to behave the way because of their peers,parents and society never bothering to dig a little deeper to see their true worth.

I propose that all politicians be required to live in an MRI machine.

Using a strong magnetic field, scientists from MIT, Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is able to blur the moral center of the brain ..

Anyway, if you're wearing an analogue watch, it's very easy to tell if you're in a strong magnetic field. Watch stopped? Move around until watch starts again.

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