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Cultural differences in responses to real-life and hypothetical trolley problems

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journal contribution
posted on 09.04.2014, 09:38 by Natalie Gold, Andrew M. Colman, Briony D. Pulford
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.

History

Citation

Judgment and Decision Making, 2014, 9 (1), pp. 65 - 76

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AND PSYCHOLOGY/School of Psychology

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Judgment and Decision Making

Publisher

Society of Judgment and Decision Making

issn

1930-2975

Copyright date

2014

Available date

09/04/2014

Publisher version

http://journal.sjdm.org/vol9.1.html

Language

en