Chivalry vs Societal morals. Who is preferred, Man or Woman?


We are told since our childhood that society is male-oriented and favours men at large. However, this might just be an uneducated opinion. Here we will dive into several experiments and studies that have conclusively proven that when it comes to harm, survival, and/or end of life decisions both men and women tend to value a female life over a male life. Following are some experiments and their results

A team of psychologists researchers at the Medical Research Council at Cambridge University and Columbia University, (appeared in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.) conducted a study with three experiments. Here we have taken out all technical jargon and explained those experiments in simple words.

Experiment 1:

This experiment is based on a widely corroborated psychological technique called “Trolley Dilemma”.

Trolley Dilemma/Problem

At the very beginning of the experiment, all participants were told to put themselves in a situation where they are standing on a bridge that has a train track underneath it. They are accompanied by a man, a woman, and a person with unspecified gender. Thereafter, they were told that five people down the track would get killed if the upcoming train is not stopped before it passes under the bridge. The catch here is the only way to stop the running train is to push off one of the three persons standing with them. After test subjects understood the situation thoroughly they were asked that in this case whom would they most likely sacrifice to save those five lives down the track.

With results, it became evident that both men and women were more likely to sacrifice the male bystander or the person with unspecified gender over the female bystander.

Experiment 2:

In this experiment, they dialed the situation up a notch. Here they introduced a monetary aspect that was not present in the first experiment.

Grow money 10 times

Scientists brought in a new group of subjects and allowed them to interact at first, then they gave £ 20 to each of them and told that their money could grow 10 times making it £ 200. However, this earning would happen only if they allow administering mild electric shocks to other subjects. On the other hand, if they give up the money no one will be administered any shock.

As the first experiment here also women were more likely to avert the shocks even at the coast of financial loss compared to men who were more likely to be harmed. Not only both genders were less likely to shock women but particularly women were way more likely to shock other men over women making it clear that they would preferably harm men over women.

Experiment 3:

While conducting this last experiment 350 subjects who were not emotionally linked were asked a series of questions to better understand their thought process. This thought process would later explain the kind of behavior they exhibited in the first two experiments.

Following are the types of questions that were asked

  • “On a sinking ship, whom should you save first? Men, women, or no order”
  • “According to social norms, how morally acceptable is it to harm (men/women) for money?”
  • “According to social norms, how fair is it to harm (men/women)?” and,
  • “According to social norms, how well do (men/women) tolerate pain?”
Protecting Women

At the end of this experiment, it became more clear that social norms are in favor of women. Here also men and women both were willing to harm and sacrifice men and protect women. Also, scientists found that women, in general, are more susceptible to pain and both men and women exhibited that it is not acceptable to harm a female for personal gain. At large, society still promotes men who are chivalrous.

If we add some more data such as 97% war deaths are men, the probability of a man being subjected to violence is twice that of a woman, 3 out of 4 homeless people are men, and many more, it becomes more and more clear that claims of gender bias are evident but instead of them being against women they are against men.

“There is indeed a gender bias in these matters: society perceives harming women as more morally unacceptable.”

co-author Dean Mobbs, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University

Check out: How true is “A man is only loved under the condition that he provides something”?

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