The neural mechanisms that are typically implicated with harming others become less active when the violence against a particular group is seen as justified, the study found."The findings show that when a person is responsible for what they see as justified or unjustified violence, they will have different feelings of guilt associated with that," said lead researcher Pascal Molenberghs from Monash University.

"For the first time, we can see how this guilt relates to specific brain activation," he said.Participants in the study played video games in which they imagined themselves to be shooting innocent civilians (unjustified violence) or enemy soldiers (justified violence).Their brain activity was recorded via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they played.

"When participants imagined themselves shooting civilians compared to soldiers, greater activation was found in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), an important brain area involved in making moral decisions," Molenberghs said.

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