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When a person makes a claim, that claim may be correct or incorrect, but it can also be interpreted in terms of the information conveyed, a second-order judgment. For example, a claim may provide objective, fact-like information about the world, or it may provide subjective, preference-like information about beliefs. Second-order judgments about moral claims (i.e. metaethical judgments) occupy a special case: some morals are perceived as more objective than others. The present work examined second-order judgments of morals, facts, and preferences behaviorally and neurally, using linear mixed effects models to estimate by-stimulus second-order judgments (Study 1), comparing them with Theory of Mind network (ToMN) activity (Study 2). Among moral claims, ToMN activity was positively correlated with subjectivity (i.e. preference-like) ratings and was negatively correlated with objectivity (i.e. fact-like) ratings. Spatially, these correlations overlapped in bilateral TPJ, key nodes in the ToMN. Mixed effects analyses ruled out the potential confounds of semantic or syntactic differences across stimuli. Further, exploratory analysis suggested that the relationship between ToMN and mental state inference may differ in morals, compared to facts and preferences. The present work, then, contextualizes the neural processes associated with metaethical judgment. We briefly speculate on how our findings may inform accounts of ToMN activity, drawing on recent theories of predictive processing.
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