Cultural difference play crucial role in when people would sacrifice one to save group

January 21, 2020

Cultural differences play a pivotal role in how people in different parts of the world perceive when it is acceptable to sacrifice one person to save a larger group, new research has shown.

An innovative new research, led by Edmond Awad from the University of Exeter's Business School, looked at how people on different continents reacted to a new version of the famous ethical thought experiment, known as the "trolley dilemma".

It found that those in more traditional communities, such as those in Asia, were less inclined to support sacrificing someone to save more lives.

The results could have serious implications for the development of Artificial Intelligence, such as driverless cars, and the future of ethical programming.

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Edmond Awad, from Exeter's Business School said: "Sacrificial dilemmas provide a useful tool to study and understand how the public want driverless cars to distribute unavoidable risk on the road."

The 'Trolley Dilemma' is an ethical thought experiment where there is a runaway trolley moving down railway tracks. In its path, there are five people tied up and unable to move and the trolley is heading straight for them.

People are told that they are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If they pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks - but will kill one person who is standing on the side track.

The people have the option to either do nothing, and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track, or pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

The results showed that, overridingly, people in Europe, Australia and the Americas were more willing than those in eastern countries to switch the track, or to sacrifice the man, to save more lives

In Eastern countries such as China, Japan and Korea, there were far lower rates of people likely to support this 'morally questionable' view.

In traditional communities, where people may stay in close, small communities where it is hard to form new relationships, they don't want to alienate their current connections by suggesting they would sacrifice someone, expert suggest.

In western countries, where it is easier to move on and find new social groups if someone disagrees with you, people may find it easier to voice, or think, such thoughts.

The study asked 70,000 people across 42 countries the ethical dilemma - one of the largest studies of its type.

Overall, 81 per cent were willing to switch the carriage to a separate train track to kill one person instead of five, and half would throw a man off a footbridge on to the tracks to spare five.

Dr Awad said these results could offer a pivotal new impetus in the development of ethical programming, for AI including driverless cars.

He said that, policymakers would have to take into consideration how local ethics differed across the world, when regulating future programming.

Dr Award added: It's hard to see from now whether these cross-country differences are big enough to require different rules for machines in different countries, but the results suggest that it's worth further investigation.
Universals and variations in moral decisions made in 42 countries by 70,000 participants is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

University of Exeter

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to