What the “Tram Problem” experiment tells us

The tram problem makes people feel struggling and painful, suffering from pressure and guilt. This feeling of “difficulty” is the most precious thing in each of us, that is, conscience.

There is a very classic thought experiment, which was first taught by Harvard University professor Sandel in the “Justice” class, and then went viral. Sandel introduced two versions of the “Tram Problem”, let us do this thought experiment together.

The first version. Now imagine that a tram is out of control while it is moving. The driver cannot stop the tram, but he can turn the tram. There are five workers working in front of the track. If the tram is allowed to move forward, all five workers will be killed. In order to avoid this tragic accident, the only way is for the driver to turn the tram to another track, but there is also a worker in front of this track who is working on it. The consequence of the tram turning is that this person will undoubtedly die. So the question is: If you were a driver, what would you do?

The result of the experiment is that most people will choose to turn the tram to save 5 people at the expense of one person. Moreover, the reasons given by people in thought experiments are also very interesting. Some people say: I need a “Bible”, look up what God asks us to do, and I will do it; some people say that these people have nothing to do with me anyway, if they can give me any benefits, I will Do it; and most people will calculate: the sacrifice of one person can save five people. This is a cost-effective bill. The lives of five people are more valuable than the life of one person. Then I should operate the tram steering.

The second version. Now imagine that a tram is also out of control. There are 5 workers in front of the track under construction. The consequence of allowing the tram to move forward is that all 5 workers were killed. However, the tram has no other tracks to turn, and the driver cannot avoid this tragic accident. But at this time, someone happened to watch the scenery on the flyover above the track. He witnessed and fully understood the upcoming tragedy. He also knew that as long as he pushed one person off the bridge, he could stop the tram from moving forward. , To save these 5 workers, of course the one who was pushed down must die. So the question is, what would you do if you were the one standing on the bridge and watching the scenery?

The result of the experiment is that most people choose not to push. Moreover, in the second version of the experiment, people’s explanations are more interesting. Some people say that if you let yourself kill someone yourself, you really can’t do it. No matter how many people you want to save, you can’t kill an innocent person with your own hands. Some people say that if the person pushing down is unfamiliar with them, it has nothing to do with them. It’s okay, if it’s a friend of yours, it’s not good; some people say that if that person is a sinner, then I will push it, anyway, if he is a good person, it’s not good; some people say that if I push that person down What if someone’s family come to me for revenge? Some people say, I don’t know whether I want to push or not. Anyway, when the car comes over, I follow my inner feelings and let me push. Push; some people are more fierce, saying that they really can’t attack innocent people, so they simply jump off to save others.

In the first version, a person was sacrificed because of “a last resort”, that is to say, this responsibility can be shirk, which will make the person feel a lot less pressure. The second version is different. Although one person is sacrificed, this is the result of the party’s active choice. Active choice means taking responsibility. All consequences are the party’s choice. This puts all the responsibility on the parties. If you are a normal person, you will be extremely struggling and painful at this time, and suffering from stress and guilt: Why do you want to hurt the lives of others to achieve a certain goal?

In fact, it is this “difficult” feeling that is the most precious thing in each of us, that is, conscience. On the one hand, conscience is an ability to love, especially fraternity towards strangers, which is manifested in kindness and empathy, which every normal person is born with; on the other hand, conscience is also a sense of obligation, which is a kind of feeling towards others. Responsibilities that people cannot shirk, such as parents’ innate obligation to raise children, children’s obligation to support parents, and even pets. In other words, the reason why people have difficulty making choices is because we have empathy for strangers. Based on this emotion, we have the obligation not to harm him. This sense of obligation is conscience and the brightest star in the human mind.

Development of conscience
Patricia Churchland, a famous neuroscientist, believes that morality, especially the voice in our hearts that we need to listen to, is actually a product of brain evolution. In the study of animal psychology and behavior, it is found that animals, especially mammals, already have the ability to empathize. They can also mourn, defend others, and comfort their companions after defeat. For example, chimpanzees use their arms. Surround yourself with your companions to express comfort. In fact, all of our initial morality comes from the deep emotional connection with the mother. This emotional connection was originally to help the child survive. In this process, the mother took care of the child with all his heart, so that the child gained the original Empathy.

Lawrence Kohlberg, a well-known psychologist and educator at Harvard University, has done a lot of systematic research in this area. He has studied children aged 6-16 from the United States, Taiwan, Mexico, Turkey, and Yucatan Peninsula. A large number of interviews were conducted. During the interview, he will tell the children 10 stories about a certain moral dilemma. One of the most famous stories is “Heinz’s Dilemma.” The story goes like this:

Heinz’s wife had a rare cancer and was dying. The doctor said that there is a special medicine that can save her, but the raw materials used to make this medicine are not only expensive, but the pharmacist who invented the medicine will charge the customer 10 times the cost. In order to treat his wife, Heinz borrowed money from anyone he could think of, and in the end only borrowed about half of the money. Heinz explained to the pharmacist that if there was no such medicine, his wife would have to wait to die, and he prayed that the pharmacist could sell it to him cheaper, or let him fill up the medicine after a while. But the pharmacist replied: “That won’t work. I invented this medicine to make money from it.” Heinz became desperate. To save his wife’s life, he sneaked into the pharmacy and stole the medicine. The question is, should Heinz do this?

Kohlberg is not really interested in the children’s answers to the question “Should Heinz do that?”, but the reasoning process behind their answers and recorded this process. Research has found that children’s moral development actually follows a universal law, from self-interested behavior to principled behavior. This process can be divided into three stages:

One is the early stage of ethics. When children are 7-10 years old, they mainly obey the authority and norms of adults. The reason for doing this is only because they have expectations of rewards and punishments. The typical response is: “Heinz should not do that because he will be punished. ”

The second is the period of morality. Starting from the age of 10, children’s behavior is guided by the opinions of others, and there is a willingness to obey the norms. At this level, obedience to authority becomes a value in itself, and has nothing to do with immediate rewards and punishments or higher principles. The reasoning for the “moral rule period” of Heinz’s stealing is this: “He should not steal drugs. Stealing things is illegal.”

The third is the later stage of morality. This period probably starts from adolescence and goes through a relatively long process. Children will form abstract moral principles and act according to these principles to satisfy their own conscience, not the approval of others. In other words, if you can smoothly transition to this period, then the child will follow his own inner voice and judgment. In the later stages of morality, moral reasoning overrides specific social norms, and there are often conflicts with social norms that people already understand. As far as the “Heinz Dilemma” is concerned, people who are in the later stages of morality may insist that life is more precious than money after moral reasoning.

However, Kohlberg’s research found that, in fact, most of us have never reached the level of the later stages of morality. In other words, in fact, many of us, deep in their hearts, are still at the level of moral development of “children”. They are either afraid of being punished or obey authority and truly follow their own inner moral standards. .

There was a case of a 33-year-old man, which impressed me extremely. It can be said that this man performed “filial piety” to the extreme. Although the man is 33 years old, his face is very round, he looks like a “baby face”, his eyes are a bit dull, his facial muscles are stiff, and his back is a little hunched. It can be said that this man is a typical “good old man”, very easy to talk and very obedient. In interpersonal relationships, he always gives people the feeling of “inferior”. This man has a very special place, that is, he has been talking about “respecting his parents”, it can be said that he always mentions his parents, especially his mother.

This man had talked about three girlfriends before, but they were all very unsuccessful. The reason is that this man felt that none of his girlfriends was “filial” enough for his parents. Finally, a woman married him, but within a few years, his wife was about to divorce him. It turned out that the man’s mother would often come to “visit” at home without saying hello after her son got married, and would even casually flip through his wife’s things; especially after the daughter-in-law gave birth to a child, the man’s mother could be said to be different This kind of “fancy demon” not only gives pointers to the daughter-in-law, has a mean language, without any care or care, but also takes over the children and feeds them in their own way. Once during breastfeeding, the old lady insisted that the child was not full and asked her daughter-in-law to feed again, and even squeezed her breasts by herself.

For these behaviors of the mother, the son’s choice is to always stand with his mother. He believes that his wife must be as filial to his mother as himself. Whatever the mother says is right, because only parents treat their children well, and when a child is a child, he must repay his parents for their kindness. It can be said that this man has reached the level of “duty and filial piety”. Once, the man’s wife really couldn’t stand it anymore and had a conflict with the man’s mother. As a result, the man suddenly became furious and rushed up to slap his wife hard, which eventually led to the breakdown of the marriage.

Later, it was discovered that this man had an almost paranoid pursuit of “filial piety”, as if “filial piety” was an absolutely correct thing. We could not touch it, analyze it, or recognize it, but only implement it. It, parents should be absolutely correct. And this man is so paranoid about “filial piety” because he was repeatedly “abused” by his parents, especially his mother, from childhood. As long as he is disobedient and disobedient, he is beaten, scolded and punished, even ignored and ignored. In fact, from the moment this man was “abused”, his inner moral development had stagnated. It can be said that the mental and moral level of this man is similar to that of a 7-year-old child.

As the famous domestic psychological counselor Zeng Qifeng said: Love creates separation, while abuse creates loyalty. The German psychotherapist Helinger once had a very vivid metaphor: a bear has been kept in a narrow cage and can only stand, not sit down, let alone lie down. When people attack it, it can only huddled together to deal with it. Later, it was rescued from this narrow cage, but it still stood still, as if it didn’t know that it was free, it could sit, lie down, run, or fight back.

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