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October 27, 2009

1. A philosophical study of moral choices as demonstrated by the “trolley problem”: An out-of-control trolley hurtling down its track will kill the five people in its path. A switch, however, will redirect the trolley to another track where only one person would be hit. Is it permissible to hit the switch? Now imagine five people are in the path of the trolley and there is no switch. A heavy man is walking along a bridge above the track. Pushing the heavy man onto the track would stop the trolley, saving the five lives but killing the man. Is it permissible to push him? When posed similar questions in an online moral-sense test, 89 percent of respondents deemed it acceptable to hit the switch in the first case. In the second case, only 11 percent agreed it was permissible to push the man—though in the end, the result is the same: one life lost and five lives saved.

2. The study of what the items in a shopping cart (“trolley” in British English) reveals about the shopper’s behavior or personality.

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