How many lives would you have to save to make up for a single murder?

When researchers asked students how many lives a person would have to save to be forgiven for a murder the median response was 25:

It seems to us that frequency and diagnostic accounts, although clearly relevant and with some explanatory power, are not able, on their own, to account for the negativity bias in moral judgment. After all, heroic acts are surely as infrequent and diagnostic as immoral acts, yet murder is rarely balanced, in the judgment of people, by a single heroic act. In a recent survey with a few hundred introductory psychology undergraduates, we asked how many lives a person would have to save, each on individual occasions and each at risk to his or her own life, to be forgiven for the murder of one person. The median was 25 (Kurzer, Rozin, & Royzman, 2000).

Source: “Negativity Bias, Negativity Dominance, and Contagion” from Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2001, Vol. 5, No. 4, 296–320

I found this study via Jonathan Haidt’s very interesting book The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.

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