Support more videos like this at patreon.com/rebecca!
If you had a time machine, would you use it to go back to when Hitler was a young artist so you could murder him and prevent the future deaths of millions of people?
Researchers in the US, Canada, and Germany recently asked this question to more than 6,000 people to determine if there were any major gender differences in terms of both philosophy and critical thinking abilities.
They found that there were differences in philosophy: women tended to be deontologists, meaning they placed more emphasis on the morality of the action they were taking and thus were less likely to kill Hitler, while men tended to be utilitarians, meaning they placed more emphasis on the overall greater good their action might have, meaning they were more likely to kill Hitler.
It’s worth noting that the other tested characteristic, whether there was a difference in rational reasoning, found absolutely no difference. Women were just as rational as men in evaluating their choices and understanding the consequences of various decisions.
But to get back to the Hitler-killing bit, you may be aware that this is really just a slightly less possible alternative to the famous Trolley Problem, in which subjects are asked to let a trolley crash and kill 5 people or flip a switch and have it go down another track that would only kill one. In those tests, about 90% of all people say they’d flip the switch, choosing the utilitarian philosophical path over the deontological.
The problem with both the trolley and the time machine are that these situations are so completely impossible and divorced from real people’s day-to-day lives that it’s difficult to really say whether our answers to them are in any way indicative of how we actually feel. Just last year, some psychologists published a paper criticizing these moral dilemmas, pointing out that these amusing examples can only make people even more divorced from a decision they’d actually make in a real-life scenario.
So by using a scenario involving a long-time joke about killing Hitler, this study may have inadvertently made people less likely to respond in a real-life way, and thus more likely to fall back on stereotypes that are expected – i.e., men are more likely to take the colder, violent path that saves millions, while women are more likely to worry more about causing any kind of direct harm.
As for me, if I could go back in time to when Hitler was a kid, I’d get the guy some art lessons, and maybe some hardcore sensitivity training. It’s the best of both worlds! But yeah, if the sensitivity training didn’t work I’d shoot that asshole in the face, no problem.