Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford


  • Lisa L. M. Welling
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_479-1



Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and its functions, including emotions and behaviors. The Trolley Problem has been used to study morality, particularly moral behavior, within psychology.


The Trolley Problem is a moral dilemma first used by philosophers and then adopted by psychologists to examine moral thinking (Cathcart 2013). The original problem was created by Philippa Foot and involved deciding whether or not to switch a trolley that was speeding toward five people to a new track with only one person on it (i.e., whether you should sacrifice one life to save five; Foot 1967). Several variations of the Trolley Problem now exist, such as the Fat Man variant where the individual must decide whether or not to push a fat man on the tracks to save five people (Cathcart 2013).

The Psychology Behind the Trolley Problem

Psychologists have used the Trolley Problem and its...

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  1. Bleske-Rechek, A., Nelson, L. A., Baker, J. P., Remiker, M. W., & Brandt, S. J. (2010). Evolution and the trolley problem: People save five over one unless the one is young, genetically related, or a romantic partner. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 4(3), 115–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cathcart, T. (2013). The trolley problem, or would you throw the fat guy off the bridge?: A philosophical conundrum. New York: Workman Publishing Company.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Lisa L. M. Welling
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA