In a study designed to illuminate distinctions by gender when making moral decisions, men were more likely than women to admit that they would go back in time — if they could — to kill Adolph Hitler.
According to Haaretz, the study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, was based upon research conducted in the United States, Canada and Germany involving 6,100 participants who were asked various moral questions.
Among the questions asked was: “If a time machine was available, would it be right to kill a young Adolf Hitler to prevent World War II and save millions of lives?”
According to Rebecca Friesdorf, a graduate student in social psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada and the lead author of the study, women were more conflicted about killing, even it would save other lives.
“Women seem to be more likely to have this negative, emotional, gut-level reaction to causing harm to people in the dilemmas, to the one person, whereas men were less likely to express this strong emotional reaction to harm,” she explained.
Participants were asked 20 questions about moral dilemmas on topics relating to murder, torture, lying, abortion, and conducting research on animals.
According to the study, when faced with certain dilemmas men are typically more willing to accept harmful actions for the sake of the greater good than women.
Women would be less likely to support the killing of a young Hitler or torturing a bombing suspect, even if doing so would ultimately save more lives.
The study pitted deontology — the rightness or wrongness of actions based upon established rules — against utilitarianism, which focuses on the consequences of actions and seeks the greatest good for the most people.