If your family is starving and you can't produce any money, would you sell your daughter into the pornography business to feed the rest of your children and spouse?
Granted, it's not a scenario that's likely to happen, but it's just the sort of question study participants have been invited to answer throughout the years.
A new study conducted by researchers in Germany, Canada and the United States took a second look at these type of ethical dilemma responses in 6,100 participants.
They found men and women seem to choose courses of action based on different sets of criteria.
According to Rebecca Friesdorf, the study's lead author and a social psychology graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, men were more likely respond in traditionally "utilitarian" ways, focusing on the dilemmas' larger implications.
Women, however, considered the emotional implications of making an "immoral" decision along with utilitarian principles.
Both genders thought about the problems rationally, but women had the added complication of emotional response.
When it came to the idea of causing harm to another person, women experienced "gut-level negative [reactions]" to the idea that their male counterparts didn't experience.
If the choice was between killing Adolf Hitler before he began the Holocaust or allowing him to live, for example, men considered the number of lives that would've been saved by his death.
Women, however, took into account both the death toll of the Holocaust and the immorality of murdering someone.
In an NPR interview, Friesdorf addd,
Women seem to be feeling more equal levels of both emotion and cognition. They seem to be experiencing similar levels of both, so it's more difficult for them to make their choice.
In a press release, Friesdorf said her results fall into a body of earlier research showing most women experience strong empathetic urges.