Men, Women Not Eye-to-Eye on Killing Hitler

Women less likely to commit harm for the 'greater good,' study says
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2015 3:00 PM CDT
Men More Likely Than Women to Go Back, Kill Hitler
This undated file picture shows the German Fuehrer Adolf Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun while dining.   (AP Photo/US Army Signal Corps from Eva Braun's album, File)

If you had a time machine, would you go back and kill Hitler before he could lead the Nazis? Men and women both see the benefits of such an act, but men seem more likely to pull the trigger, the Independent reports. Researchers came to this conclusion by poring over the answers 6,100 people gave to a range of moral questions that involve committing harm for the greater good, including the Hitler question. "Women seem to be more likely to have this negative, emotional, gut-level reaction to causing harm to people ... whereas men were less likely to express this strong emotional reaction to harm," says lead author Rebecca Friesdorf. The study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, looked at reactions to questions about torture, murder, abortion, lying, and animal research, Eureka Alert reports.

For example, if you lived in a poor household in a developing country, and crops were bad for the second straight year, would you let your daughter work in pornography to feed the family? "Very few people say yes you should do it, even though it will save the rest of the family," Friesdorf tells NPR. But in a subset of the data, she found that women struggled more with decisions, likely because they balanced the outcome against the importance of following societal rules. In general, men were more utilitarian (concerned with long-term consequences) while women tended to be deontologists (dwelling on the morality of acts that break societal norms, like killing Hitler). "Women seem to be feeling more equal levels of both emotion and cognition," says Friesdorf, "so it's more difficult for them to make their choice." (Another study finds that morning people are liars at night.)

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