Drunk people have notoriously poor judgement, which is why they’re not allowed to operate heavy machinery or talk to Mindy Kaling. But French researchers have discovered that being under the influence makes you more likely to be ruthlessly rational in a moral quandary.
For the study, researchers approached bar patrons in Grenoble, France and asked them to fill out a questionnaire and take a blood alcohol content test. The questionnaire presented them with two well-known philosophical dilemmas: the trolley problem and the footbridge problem. Both hypothetical situations test whether the subject is willing to kill one person to save five others, either by flipping a switch to divert a runaway trolley or by pushing a fat man off a bridge.
The Thinker—or should it be, the drinker? (Photo: Flickr/ Brian Hillegas)
The results showed that the more people had been drinking, the more willing they were to follow cold, hard logic. According to The Atlantic, “The drunker the subject, the more willing he or she was to kill one hypothetical person for the sake of the hypothetical many.”
Apparently alcohol turns sober, sensitive types into flinty utilitarians who see that the benefit of saving five people outweighs the harm of killing one. The Atlantic writes,
The other great takeaway is that the French are incredibly high-functioning drunks. Out of 102 participants, only one person did not follow the instructions properly and was excluded from the study.