It’s a famous thought experiment, popular at a certain kind of dinner party: “The Trolley Problem.” Let’s say you were given the job of operating the lever to a pair of train tracks on which a mine trolley is hurtling at breakneck speed. If you do nothing, the trolley will kill five people standing on the track it’s currently on. If you pull the lever, you’ll divert the trolley, and instead kill one person who is standing on the other track. The classic thinking holds that most people will let five people die rather than pull the lever, because the thought of deliberately killing one person — even to save five others — is intolerable to anyone with an ounce of empathy.
In a recent study, a group of researchers put this theory to the test, albeit with mouse subjects and imaginary scenarios instead of actual humans. The 300 subjects were first given a series of hypothetical moral dilemmas, including a variation on the trolley problem in which they were asked whether they’d push a man through a locked window to his certain death in order to make an escape for five children trapped inside. (One wonders, a little, about the people that think these things up.)
Read the whole story: The Cut