If they had a time machine, men would be more likely than women to travel to pre-World War II Europe and kill Hitler, according to a recently published study.
Researchers from the United States, Canada and Germany conducted a meta-analysis of 40 studies that included 6,100 participants who were asked various moral questions, including whether they would kill Hitler to prevent the war.
According to the study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, both men and women calculated the consequences of such a difficult decision, but women felt more conflicted about committing murder.
"Women seem to be more likely to have this negative, emotional, gut-level reaction to causing harm to people in the dilemmas, to the one person, whereas men were less likely to express this strong emotional reaction to harm," Rebecca Friesdorf, the lead author of the study, said, according to NPR.
Friesdorf, a graduate student in social psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, worked on the study with Paul Conway, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Cologne, and Bertram Gawronski, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, to examine gender differences in judgments about moral dilemmas.
Participants were asked 20 questions about moral dilemmas such as decisions about murder, torture, lying, abortion and conducting research on animals.
The study examined two philosophical principles that relate to ethics, deontology and utilitarianism. According to the former, the morality of an action depends on its consistency with a moral norm. Utilitarianism, meanwhile, holds the morality of an action maximizes utility – in other words, that it is best for the greatest number of people.