Cultural differences in responses to real-life and hypothetical trolley problems
Trolley problems have been used in the development of moral theory and the psychological study of moral judgments and behavior. Most of this research has focused on people from the West, with implicit assumptions that moral intuitions should generalize and that moral psychology is universal. However, cultural differences may be associated with differences in moral judgments and behavior. We operationalized a trolley problem in the laboratory, with economic incentives and real-life consequences, and compared British and Chinese samples on moral behavior and judgment. We found that Chinese participants were less willing to sacrifice one person to save five others, and less likely to consider such an action to be right. In a second study using three scenarios, including the standard scenario where lives are threatened by an on-coming train, fewer Chinese than British participants were willing to take action and sacrifice one to save five, and this cultural difference was more pronounced when the consequences were less severe than death.
Volume (Year): 9 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
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- Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
- Adam B. Moore & N. Y. Louis Lee & Brian A. M. Clark & Andrew R. A. Conway, 2011. "In defense of the personal/impersonal distinction in moral psychology research: Cross-cultural validation of the dual process model of moral judgment," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(3), pages 186-195, April.
- Gold, Natalie & Pulford, Briony D. & Colman, Andrew M., 2013. "Your Money Or Your Life: Comparing Judgements In Trolley Problems Involving Economic And Emotional Harms, Injury And Death," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(02), pages 213-233, July.
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