The Greater Good

2017 ,    »  -   8 Comments
Ratings: 6.70/10 from 37 users.

Would you sacrifice one person to save the lives of five? For many, the answer to this conundrum would be obvious as most would chose to prevent the highest number of casualties. But would your natural instinct remain unchanged if this theory played out in real world circumstances? That's the question that lies at the center of The Greater Good, the premiere episode from season 2 of the YouTube Red original series Mind Field.

This scenario is based upon the Trolley Problem, a classic theoretical query employed by researchers over many decades. A trolley car barrels towards two split train tracks. Tied to one track are five potential victims while only one person lies tied to the second track. If you controlled the lever, would you chose to continue on the straightforward path and kill five people, or switch tracks to imperil only one? Would fear, guilt and apprehension cause you to freeze? This setup has long been used to evaluate our fundamental moral and ethical instincts.

To place this theoretical dilemma into the realm of real life, the filmmakers concoct an elaborate production featuring a real freight train, hired actors playing distracted railroad workers, and carefully chosen subjects who remain oblivious to the experiment before them.

Another fascinating strand of the documentary's narrative involves a wider angle view of scientific tests such as these, and their ultimate responsibility to their subjects. The endeavor itself is yet another example of determining the greater good. By indulging in these experiments, are they inflicting irreparable psychological trauma? Is the information they collect worth the risks posed to unwitting participants?

In their quest to discern the difference between "instinct" and "philosophical reflection", the filmmakers consult an expert in the field of psychology, as well as an institutional review board at Pepperdine University. They receive valuable feedback on how they can launch a successful experiment while limiting potential harm to their subjects.

The Greater Good is riveting, revealing and surprisingly suspenseful.

Directed by: Michael Stevens

8 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Janice

    Five unknown people or one unknown person? Isn't that a no brainer, unless you're a serial killer? And one known person to five unknown? That's dependant on your relationship with that one person whether on how I'd choose.

  2. Roger Andout
  3. Roger Andout

    That took courage. I was most impressed by Cory's reaction. Emotion is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. I notice in the review that it wasn't revealed that the two who threw the switch were told that they acted in the greater good.

  4. ROme
  5. ROme


    There is more to it than just that. In another scenario it goes like this: A trolley is headed towards 5 people, you are on a platform and notice an obese man standing there as well. Pushing him off will slow down the train and prevent 5 people from dying. Would you push the man off the platform? Surprisingly most people say no to this scenario, even though logistically it's the same.

  6. joe nobull
  7. joe nobull

    the problem here is the train is going slow if it can take that corner (obviously)so the people are highly likely to notice in time and get out of the way(logically)...but if the train is going fast then 6 will die as it crashes on the corner(if switched) or only 5 will die if left to continue...ya tuff choices given the info released to the players

  8. Jockey
  9. Jockey


    That is sexist

  10. CG
  11. CG

    This is definitely interesting.

    The obvious choice is kill one to save 5.

    But it's pretty easy to rationalize your way into inactivity and indecision in the moment.

    If I switch it, the death of that one is a direct result of my action, I personally killed that man... I ended the life of a man that wouldve otherwise survived and gone home to his family. it'd be hard under duress to do that, and before you have time to rationalize that inaction is still pretty much you killing those 5 people it's over, and youre left entirely devastated, or awkwardly taking minor solace that the same result would've happened were you not there at all.

    If you believe in fate or God you may also be inactive, and expect whatever happens to be 'God's Will' or a particularly bad twist of fate when faced with no easy options.

    Finally, one may convince themselves that there's some sort of failsafe that they're unaware of... I mean they got a crash course of all of a few minutes from this one person, clearly you don't know the system in and out.

    There are lots of ways in the moment of duress to convince yourself to do nothing, or drive yourself into panic long enough that you miss the moment to do something and regret it.

    I believe if I was in this situation in reality, I would take the one life, but I would forever blame myself for that one death, and never forgive myself even if it was the rationally and morally best decision I could make at the time... I would likely make efforts to learn about the man who's life I took away, and it would be the key factor of the rest of my life going forward. I would just be a ball of permanent unfixable depression until I died.

    If I were part of this test (which I would not be, and between my reality answer, and the remainder of this test answer you will know why.) I believe I would not be as accepting of the aftermath as those in the study. I would still be upset no matter which outcome I picked, and would be furious that they put me through this

    Although they might not know my exact reactions, heck even I can't be sure of my exact reactions, I feel I would be pretty easily screened out by their psychological tests.

  12. Dexter Morgan
  13. Dexter Morgan

    the correct choice is you should do nothing and just watch, rather than disturbing nature. just as we watch lions eat zebras and do not save the zebra's life, there does not appear to be any reason to behave differently in a case like this. let natural selection do its work.

  14. Ex-muslim Atheist/Minneapolis
  15. Ex-muslim Atheist/Minneapolis

    I will not hesitate to save 5 people

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