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  1. Here's how your smartphone usage can change the way you make decisions

    30 May 2017 - 11:27 AM

    LONDON: People using smartphones are more likely to make rational and unemotional decisions compared
    to computer users, when presented with a moral dilemma on their device, according to a new study.

    Researchers from City, University of London in the UK found that PC users were more likely to
    favour action based on intuition and following established rules.

    The research suggests that moral judgements depend on the digital context in which a dilemma
    is presented and could have significant implications for how we interact with computers.

    The researchers recruited 1,010 people and presented them with a classic moral dilemma known as the 'Trolley Problem'.

    In the trolley problem, participants are told that there is a runaway trolley travelling
    quickly down the railway tracks.

    Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move and the trolley is headed straight for them.
    The participants are then told that they are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to
    a lever and that if you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks.
    However, they are also told that there is one person on the side track.

    As a result, participants are asked to either do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track or alternatively pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

    In both scenarios participants are asked to sacrificing one life to save five other,
    but the lever trolley dilemma is impersonal while the footbridge dilemma is personal.

    When presented with different scenarios, the researchers found that participants in the
    fat man dilemma were more likely to opt for sacrificing the fat man (utilitarian response)
    to save five people when using a smartphone (33.5%) than when using a PC (22.3%).

    In the lever condition, it was also found that slightly more participants decided to
    sacrifice one man by pulling the switch than to do nothing and let five people die
    (80.9% for the smartphone users; 76.9% for the PC users).

    As a result, the study suggests that even under conditions of time pressure,
    some digital contexts - such as using a smartphone - could trigger utilitarian decision- making.

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