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Who would you kill? Test your moral intuitions

You’re a basketball referee in the final moments of a big game. The home team is up by one point as the clock ticks away and the crowd begins to cheer. Just then, an opposing player drives toward the net. He’s stopped by a defender. A skirmish ensues — a push here, a shove there — and the ball is knocked loose. Players are sprawled across the floor.

What do you do?

If you’re anything like most referees, you do nothing. As Jon Wertheim, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and author of the new book “Scorecasting,” explained in an interview last week, referees have been shown to call certain fouls a whopping 50 percent less in the final moments of close games.


To find out, we used a classic psychological tool known as the “trolley problem.” Each scenario involves an out-of-control train hurtling down a track toward four trapped hikers — and our protagonist, Steve, must decide what to do. The problem is designed to reveal the hidden influences behind our moral choices. Why do we choose to intervene in some situations, but not in others?

This interactive is designed to let you, the reader, experience the “trolley problems” first-hand, and to test your moral intuitions in some difficult life-and-death situations. We’ve illustrated four hypothetical scenarios using a set of toy trains (and some very unfortunate toy people). Answer each scenario, and we’ll tell you what your decisions mean — and how they stack up to others who have taken the test — at the end.

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