Shocking experiment shows talk is cheap | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News

Shocking experiment shows talk is cheap

Most people swear they'd never hurt anybody for money, but many do just that

By
3:41pm, April 6, 2011


SAN FRANCISCO — When faced with a thorny moral dilemma, what people say they would do and what people actually do are two very different things, a new study finds. In a hypothetical scenario, most people said they would never subject another person to a painful electric shock, just to make a little bit of money. But for people given a real-world choice, the sparks flew.

 The results, presented April 4 at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, serve as a reminder that hypothetical scenarios don’t capture the complexities of real decisions.

Morality studies in the lab almost always rely on asking participants to imagine how they’d behave in a certain situation, study coauthor Oriel FeldmanHall of Cambridge University said in her presentation. But these imagined situations are missing teeth: “Whatever you choose, it’s not going to happen,” she said.

But in FeldmanHall’s study, things actually

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content