Enter; ‘The Trolley Problem.’ An experiment developed by philosopher Phillipa Foot that was later adapted by Judith Jarvis Thompson. It’s a hypothetical riddle that has been used by researchers for decades to identify this unsavoury personality trait.
It goes like this:
"You are standing behind a very large stranger on a footbridge above the tracks. The only way to save the five people is to heave the stranger over. He will fall to a certain death. But his considerable girth will block the trolley, saving five lives.”
“Should you push him?"
The question raises a moral dilemma: let the larger group be killed or sacrifice the one life in order to save five.
In one study – published in the journal Cognition – it was established that those who answer with the latter solution have higher scores on measures of psychopathy, Machiavellianism and life meaningless in comparison to those who say no to pushing the man.
In saying that, no need to freak out if you did answer the question that way.
In a press release accompanying his findings, the study’s co-author Professor Daniel Bartels pointed out that the premise behind the problem is kinda flawed.
“These methods fail to distinguish between people who endorse utilitarian moral choices because of underlying emotional deficits (like those captured by our measures of psychopathy and Machiavellianism) and those who endorse them out of genuine concern for the welfare of others.”