If a runaway trolley were about to smash into a bus containing 100 trapped members of the Harlem Jazz Orchestra, would you push a wholly innocent man named Chip Ellsworth III onto the tracks to stop the accident? What if the bus held 100 members of the New York Philharmonic and the guilt-free man's name is Tyrone Payton?
Would your politics have any relevance to whether you’d prefer to kill the white man to save the black musicians or to kill the black man to save the white musicians?
In a fascinating 2009 academic paper by four social psychologists, The Motivated Use of Moral Principles, UC Irvine students who identified as politically conservative were found to be racially evenhanded. When given the scenario about killing Chip to save 100 Harlemites, conservatives were no more or less likely to agree it’s the right thing to do than when told to ponder killing the man with the cornerback’s name to save 100 classical musicians.
In striking contrast, liberal students displayed greater bloodthirstiness when presented with the scenario that gave them an opportunity to kill the WASP to help the blacks.