Research led by Dr Molly Crockett in EP has found that people were willing to sacrifice on average twice as much money to spare a stranger from receiving painful electric shocks than to spare themselves, despite the decision being secret. The study, conducted on 80 pairs of adults, was the first to experimentally compare how much pain people were willing to anonymously inflict on themselves or strangers in exchange for money. The research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was funded by the Wellcome Trust. The findings provide a surprisingly optimistic view of human nature, in stark contrast with previous economic studies claiming people fundamentally care about their own interests over those of other people. Understanding how people balance financial gains against the suffering of others could help to explain how policymakers and business leaders make spending decisions, for example on policies to improve the welfare of citizens or employees. The work was featured on BBC Newsnight and Science Magazine.
EP researchers find that most people would rather harm themselves than others for profit
- 21 November 2014