Liberal interpretations

I once read a fascinating article in Prospect magazine about an experiment to explore moral dilemmas. The thought experiment rests on notions of railways, tracks and switches: essentially, people are asked to make choices about life and death. In one experiment, you can set the switch to send an out-of-control train down one branch, where it will kill five people, or down another branch, where it will kill one person. That sort of thing, in all sorts of different configurations.

I thought the most surprising result of the experiment was the difference between liberals and conservatives. In an experiment where subjects could save a Philharmonic orchestra by pushing an African American on to the tracks or could save the Harlem Jazz Orchestra by pushing a WASP on to the tracks, the liberals showed a marked propensity to make different choices, whereas conservatives did not. This suggests to me, at least, that there is a deep-seated difference between the world views, more than simply political attitudes.


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