Move over space travel, solar eclipses, god particles and black holes. Science is finally asking the important questions.

They also happen to be horrifying.

'Would you rather' is simple enough: it gives you two unappealing choices you have to pick between, exposing your preferred poison.

Science has come along to make your inner conflict even more painful.

So, would you rather amputate your dominant hand or have a swastika tattooed prominently on your face?

Researchers from Florida University want to know the answer to that and several other uncomfortable conundrums posed in their study.

Of 166 university students, 70 per cent said they would rather lose their hand rather than be permanently branded as a Nazi.

Though one question divided respondents down the middle.

Would you rather die right now or live into your 90s, but widely known as a paedophile?

Out of 115 people, 53 per cent said they would rather die this instant.

It turns out that maintaining our moral reputation is among people's most important values.

Study co-author Andrew J Vonasch, now at the University of North Carolina, told Seeker:

People are willing to do many things to avoid a bad reputation that other theories might not have predicted. 

Certainly, we already knew that people cared about their reputations, but this research shows that we care a whole lot about it, and we argue that this is because the self fundamentally serves social purposes.

A look at how Nazis and paedophiles are rejected by society at large demonstrates that communities punish immoral behaviour.

This research argues that being outcast from society serves as a strong incentive for people to protect their reputation.

Stronger even than the inclination not to cut off your own arm.

Vonasch continued:

A good reputation is the key that unlocks the benefits provided by society. 

Getting a bad reputation means losing that key.

Because cooperative society is humans' survival strategy, losing that key is potentially devastating...

For most people, banishment from society means death. 

HT Live ScienceSeeker

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