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SVHS Tackles The Trolley Problem

J Scott, Staff Writer

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Students at SVHS who have taken our sociology program are probably familiar with the infamous trolley problem. To those who decided to pass on the class, the problem is simple.

You see a runaway train that is going to hit five people who are tied to the tracks. Next to you is a lever, and if you choose to pull it then you will redirect the train and save the five. However, if the train goes down the redirected track, it will hit a single person who is also tied to that track. So, do you pull the lever and save the five, but doom the one?

Here are the responses to this problem from a few of the students at SVHS.

Garrett Post Tackles The Trolley Problem!

Garrett Post

A: I think, yeah I think I’d pull the lever.




CJ Casperson (Not Pictured) Uses His Mind

CJ Casperson

A: Ah, that’s hard. Yeah, I’d pull the lever.





We seem to be generally in agreement. It makes sense. Five lives are worth more than one. When this study is replicated with larger sample sizes, it usually comes out to be around 90% who will save the five, and kill the one. But things get a little tricky when we change the situation ever so slightly. So let’s describe another trolley problem, and change the situations a little bit.

You are on a bridge overlooking the runaway train. You see the train coming forward, and it is still going to hit the five people. But now, instead of having a lever beside you, beside you is a very large person. This person is jacked with muscle. You can tell that this person is large enough that if you were to push this person over the bridge, their body would stop the train and save the five(let’s assume for this situation you yourself are not large enough to do with your own body, so self-sacrifice is not an option, but you are strong enough that you could easily push him over the side).

It kind of complicates things, doesn’t it? It is objectively the exact same sacrifice. You cause the death of one person to save five, but you’ll find that people are much more hesitant to go through with this decision.

Don’t take our word for it, take the word of the students at SVHS who answered this question.

Makayla Wilson Thinks She’d Freeze

Makayla Wilson

A: I think, I think I’d just freeze and have a brain fart. So no, I wouldn’t push him.






Kasenya Scott Tries To Outsmart The Problem

Kasenya Scott

A: I’ll ask him if he wants to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and if he does I’ll push him.

Q: Okay, and if he says no?

A: I’ll jump.

Q: That won’t help, it’ll still . . .

Q: I’ll jump.


In this situation, 95% of subjects say that you should NOT sacrifice the large person to save the five. But why? Scientists believe it is the difference in our minds between foreseeing an outcome and causing it. In the first situation, we are foreseeing that harm will come to the one person, and in the second situation we are immediately causing the harm. While we are still causing the harm in the first situation, we don’t see it that way. We instead foresee the one person’s death as an unfortunate side-effect of our actions.

In conclusion, we see intentionally doing harm to a previously safe individual as never morally permissible, but simply allowing harm to come to a previously safe individual is morally permissible if it is to save others.

Trolleyology, another word for the study of these kind of tests, is an interesting world. Sociologists have written page after page of research on problems like these, and each time they change the situation slightly. Is the outcome different depending on the genders of the people? What about their ages? Occupations? The human mind is weird, and it makes decisions based off a complex system of decisions and judgements. It is through these kind of tests that we see the core of humanity.

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1 Comment

One Response to “SVHS Tackles The Trolley Problem”

  1. Gage Kennington on October 12th, 2017 5:44 pm

    I would just lie on the train track then get out of the way


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SVHS Tackles The Trolley Problem