Perhaps you've heard of the so-called trolley problem, also known as the train problem. The old philosophical question goes like this:
There is a trolley barreling down the tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks, therefore saving the five people. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:
- Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
- Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
What is the right thing to do?
Your answer to this question may depend on where you are from. A massive new study indicates that the most important factor is relational mobility.
What is relational mobility, you might ask? Simply put, it's how mobile you are in your society—how easy it is to make new friends or join a new social circle. For instance, the U.S. has relatively high relational mobility.
American people, therefore, were more willing to take a risk and make a choice, most often to divert the trolley and only sacrifice one person instead of five. If their choice ends up being unpopular, they can find new friends!
In places where your social circle is tough to change, like in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, people were reluctant to intervene and just let the trolley keep going towards the five people.