Will We Act Better Or Worse Than We Think? The Mice Know!
How do you test a test to see if the results you get from it can be trusted to make realistic predictions about future behavior? Here's one way.
It's one thing to talk the talk, but can you walk the talk when it counts? Studies show there’s a big difference between what you think you’d do in a certain scenario versus what you’d actually do in real life. Want proof? Just as the mice!
The journal Psychological Science reports on an experiment that put participants values to the test.
First, test subjects filled out a questionnaire about hypothetical moral dilemmas and measured personality traits such as antisocial tendencies, moral identity, and animal empathy. Days later, the participants came to a research lab where they had to decide which of two test groups of mice would receive an electric shock.
Subjects saw two cages, one containing five mice, another containing just one mouse, both appearing to be hooked up to an electroshock machine. The people were told the cage with the five mice would receive a painful (but nonlethal) electric shock -unless- the test subjects chose to push a button that would divert the shock to the cage with the lone mouse. In other words, would they sacrifice the feelings of the one mouse for the good of a group of mice? In truth, there was no shock delivered but the participants didn't know that.
So what did the people actually do as compared to what their answers on the questionnaire indicated they would do? Researchers found that participants decision-making preferences were not at all in line what they actually did! Surprise.
Study authors say this has implications for other studies that rely on hypothetical scenarios to attempt to predict real-life behavior when it comes to moral decisions.