What Will People Do For Money? They Will Electrically Shock You

Shocking OneThis reminds me a bit of the old Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures except the results are more “shocking” (no pun intended). Laura Sanders writes on WIRED Science:

SAN FRANCISCO — When faced with a thorny moral dilemma, what people say they would do and what people actually do are two very different things, a new study finds. In a hypothetical scenario, most people said they would never subject another person to a painful electric shock, just to make a little bit of money. But for people given a real-world choice, the sparks flew.

The results, presented April 4 at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, serve as a reminder that hypothetical scenarios don’t capture the complexities of real decisions.

Morality studies in the lab almost always rely on asking participants to imagine how they’d behave in a certain situation, study coauthor Oriel Feldman Hall of Cambridge University said in her presentation. But these imagined situations are missing teeth: “Whatever you choose, it’s not going to happen,” she said.

But in Feldman Hall’s study, things actually happened. “There are real shocks and real money on the table,” she said. Subjects lying in an MRI scanner were given a choice: Either administer a painful electric shock to a person in another room and make one British pound (a little over a dollar and a half), or spare the other person the shock and forgo the money. Shocks were priced in a graded manner, so that the subject would earn less money for a light shock, and earn the whole pound for a severe shock. This same choice was given 20 times, and the person in the brain scanner could see a video of either the shockee’s hand jerk or both the hand jerk and the face grimace.

Read More: WIRED Science

17 Comments on "What Will People Do For Money? They Will Electrically Shock You"

  1. No real surprise here. It is the same as the Milgram Experiment, but of course, the authority is the dollar, or in this case, the pound, which really does put things into perspective. I can honestly say, people: I would not shock you for a buck. Some decisions aren’t so complex after all…

  2. No real surprise here. It is the same as the Milgram Experiment, but of course, the authority is the dollar, or in this case, the pound, which really does put things into perspective. I can honestly say, people: I would not shock you for a buck. Some decisions aren’t so complex after all…

  3. Rex Vestri | Apr 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm |

    Oh if only I could put John “Boner” in the hot seat and get paid for it. What a dream that would be!

    I’d be a wealthy man long before I ever got bored pressing the button.

  4. Rex Vestri | Apr 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    Oh if only I could put Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and John Boner (Boehner) in the hot seat and get paid for it…What a dream that would be!

    I’d be a wealthy man long before I ever got bored pressing the button.

  5. Grooveboss | Apr 9, 2011 at 10:05 pm |

    the worse thing i would do for money is counterfeit money. anything else is not worth it from a criminal point of view. Im not doing tho GET OFF ME FEDS

  6. Grooveboss | Apr 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    the worse thing i would do for money is counterfeit money. anything else is not worth it from a criminal point of view. Im not doing tho GET OFF ME FEDS

    • justagirl | Apr 12, 2011 at 7:23 pm |

      jail and a ticket.

      • Grooveboss | Apr 12, 2011 at 8:04 pm |

        Busted!!!! But the banks make free money all the time, and then when they run out of free money they are given more free money. seems like the right business to be in.

        • justagirl | Apr 12, 2011 at 8:36 pm |

          i like to draw on moneys. is that a crime?

          • Butter Knife | Apr 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm |

            Nope. It’s legal, so long as it is still possible to verify the bill’s denomination and authenticity, drawing on it is not illegal.

            Was that supposed to be rhetorical?

          • justagirl | Apr 13, 2011 at 8:58 am |

            some people think it’s a federal offense for defacing government property.

  7. justagirl | Apr 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm |

    jail and a ticket.

  8. Grooveboss | Apr 13, 2011 at 12:04 am |

    Busted!!!! But the banks make free money all the time, and then when they run out of free money they are given more free money. seems like the right business to be in.

  9. justagirl | Apr 13, 2011 at 12:36 am |

    i like to draw on moneys. is that a crime?

  10. Butter Knife | Apr 13, 2011 at 2:28 am |

    Nope. It’s legal, so long as it is still possible to verify the bill’s denomination and authenticity, drawing on it is not illegal.

    Was that supposed to be rhetorical?

  11. Butter Knife | Apr 13, 2011 at 2:28 am |

    Nope. It’s legal, so long as it is still possible to verify the bill’s denomination and authenticity, drawing on it is not illegal.

    Was that supposed to be rhetorical?

  12. justagirl | Apr 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |

    some people think it’s a federal offense for defacing government property.

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