Marking essays and poisoning dogs

The Wing to Heaven

This psychological experiment asked participants to judge the following actions.

(1) Stealing a towel from a hotel
(2) Keeping a dime you find on the ground
(3) Poisoning a barking dog

They had to give each action a mark out of 10 depending on how immoral the action was, on a scale where 1 is not particularly bad or wrong and 10 is extremely evil.

A second group were asked to do the same, but they were given the following three actions to judge.

(1”) Testifying falsely for pay
(2”) Using guns on striking workers
(3”) Poisoning a barking dog

I am sure you can guess the point of this. Item (3) and item (3”) are identical, and yet the two groups consistently differ on their ratings of these items. The latter group judge the action to be less evil than the former group. The reason is not hard to…

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