The old psychological dilemma has been put to the test again: if you were driving the train, would you switch tracks to kills only one person or would you say on the same track and kill five people? The question was whether the participant would switch tracks to actively kill one person or let nature take it’s course and kill the five men on the track. Prior to this experiment, the test wasn’t visual, so participants never had to see the men they chose (or didn’t choose) to kill.
The results: 90% chose to kill the 1 over the five.
The interesting part of the study? Participant were hooked up to electrodes that measured their stress levels. The participants that were most aroused tended to let the five die, over choosing to kill the one. Stress can have very real consequences in life and this experiment shows that it can certainly color our judgement.
The study obviously has many limitations. Participants didn’t know the characters on the screen — they weren’t related to any of them. This may have changed things. Participants might have chosen to save 1 family member over 5 strangers. When this is the case, only about 33% of people chose to save the five.
What would you do? Save 1 stranger, or save five? What about if they were family members? Would anxiety take over? It’s quite a dilemma!