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Moral dilemma: Would you kill 1 person to save 5?
Date:12/1/2011

proached over the horizon, the participants could either do nothing letting the coal-filled boxcar go along its route and kill the five hikers or pull a switch (in this case a joystick) and reroute it to the tracks occupied by the single hiker.

Of the 147 participants, 133 (or 90.5 percent) pulled the switch to divert the boxcar, resulting in the death of the one hiker. Fourteen participants allowed the boxcar to kill the five hikers (11 participants did not pull the switch, while three pulled the switch but then returned it to its original position).

The findings are consistent with past research that was not virtual-based, Navarrete said.

The study also found that participants who did not pull the switch were more emotionally aroused. The reasons for this are unknown, although it may be because people freeze up during highly anxious moments akin to a solider failing to fire his weapon in battle, Navarrete said.

"I think humans have an aversion to harming others that needs to be overridden by something," Navarrete said. "By rational thinking we can sometimes override it by thinking about the people we will save, for example. But for some people, that increase in anxiety may be so overpowering that they don't make the utilitarian choice, the choice for the greater good."


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Contact: Carlos David Navarrete
cdn@msu.edu
517-432-8391
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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