Show Details

Money vs. Morals

May 21, 2012

What would you do if given enough money?



What price, morality? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Don’t you hate those hypothetical moral dilemmas, such as whether you would kill one person if it meant saving the lives of five others? Well, according to Cambridge neuroscientist Oriel FeldmanHall, the answer to such morally ambiguous questions can be very different if the situation is real rather than hypothetical. She and her colleagues gave volunteers 20 British pounds and a choice. They could give electric shocks to another participant, and possibly win up to ten times that amount, or spare the other participant shocks by returning the money.

ORIEL FELDMANHALL (Cambridge University):

In the hypothetical condition almost all of them said that they would not keep the money. Whereas, in the real condition, every single person kept a part of the money and applied shocks to another subject.


FeldmanHall says despite our best intentions, the motivating power of self-interest may outweigh moral behavior. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.

There may be a big difference between what we say we'd do for money, and what we'd really do. (Jupiter Images)