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Mind Control: Ethics of the Experiment

Maintaining ethical integrity in scientific experiments is central to the credibility of the outcome and the well-being of the participants, which is why the research linked to the topics of mind control and free will has always been seen as a morally grey area in terms of its research potential. In one of the “Mind Field” episodes titled “The Greater Good,” the ethical dilemma of subjecting participants to a morally devastating choice has been discussed profusely, with one of the arguments appearing to be particularly compelling. Three particular arguments that are typically brought up during this discussion are worth closer examination. Overall, although the experiment could be potentially psychologically traumatic to its subjects, the benefits of doing this research outweigh the side effects.

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Although the possibility of an emotional trauma mentioned in the video is moderately high in the experiment based on the “trolley dilemma,” the fact that each participant may have a unique response to it is worth keeping in mind. Therefore, once the participants are warned about the severity of the emotional weight that the experiment may carry without disclosing its content, it becomes possible to select the people that will be able to withstand the pressure of the choice.

The fact that the actual “trolley problem” has never been tested on human subjects as the argument in favor of the ethical controversy being overstated appears to be quite legitimate.

The idea that screening for people with PTSD and similar clinical problems that could lead to potential harm may help reduce the controversy and, thus, create premises for the experiment is worth noting as well.

In addition, the video featured quite a lot of compelling arguments against the experiment. Furthermore, apart from the video itself, one could consider personal ideas about the potential harm, that the video could do when implemented in the academic context. Considering some of the examples below could assist in avoiding drastic effects of conducting the study based on the so-called ‘trolley problem.”

The obvious potential harm that the described experiment may cause participants is the most obvious and the most compelling statement against its implementation.

The fact that the moral responsibility will also weigh on researchers is a legitimate concern that needs to be taken into account when objecting to the implementation of the “trolley problem” research.

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Finally, the lack of clear social good that the study will ostensibly produce is a reasonable statement against the research in question. Without the clear benefit that the specified study will provide, risking potentially negative outcomes appear to be unwarranted.

Due to the threats that remain oblivious to the effects of facing the infamous “trolley dilemma” may entail, performing the experiment described in the video appears to be much more important than the possible negative outcomes. Once the experiment is set under proper conditions and controlled meticulously, with every participant having been screened for PTSD, its results may help to inform decision-making in highly controversial or critical scenarios. Nonetheless, the ethical repercussions that the experiment may entail question its legitimacy to a significant degree.

In the video under analysis, people participate in the experiment that is expected to explore the “trolley problem” for different reasons. Likewise, their argumentation about the actions that they have taken in the experiment varies to an extent. Elsa, the first participant, was motivated to turn the switch by the moral obligation to act and save more lives. In turn, the rest of the participants did not do anything, yet their motivations were varied to a certain extent. While JR admitted that he was frozen and, therefore, could not respond with an action, the rest of the test subjects admitted that they suspended their responsibility or gave into a sense of helplessness. Therefore, the general trend to deny personal responsibility appears to be the trend in the experiment outcomes.

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