The study, led by researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, the University of Cologne, and the University of Texas at Austin, analyzed 40 previous studies that together asked 6,100 men and women the choices they would make when confronted with 10 moral quandaries related to murder, torture, lying, abortion, and animal research. All pitted two ethical philosophies against each other: deontology and utilitarianism. Deontology takes a do-no-harm approach to ethics: an action is either morally right or wrong, no matter its consequences. Utilitarianism, on the other hand, holds that an action is moral if it results in the greatest good for the most people.
Based on participants’ patterns of response, researchers developed an algebraic equation to quantify the strength of deontological and utilitarian inclinations among men and women. They found that only 54 percent of women would make a utilitarian choice–like smothering the crying baby in the example above–if it meant minimizing harm to others, compared with 64 percent of men.