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Profiting from Pain

November 20, 2014

Researchers investigate whether it’s harder to inflict pain or receive it.



Delivering pain for profit. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

How much money would it take to get you to inflict painful shocks to strangers? How about to inflict the same shocks to yourself? In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University College London neuroscientist Molley Crocket and her colleagues tried this experiment with eighty volunteers using real money and painful shocks.

MOLLY CROCKETT (University College London):

So what we found was that most people were willing to pay more to prevent pain to a stranger than to themself, and likewise we had to pay people more to inflict pain on a stranger than to themself.


On average, people would shock themselves for half the price of shocking a stranger. But people who tested high for psychopathic tendencies were not only more willing to shock others, but also themselves. The work could provide insight into the roots of antisocial behavior.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.