Evidence That Initial Obedient Killing Fuels Subsequent Volitional Killing Beyond Effects Of Practice
Research using a bug-killing paradigm has suggested that increased initial killing may promote increased subsequent killing (Martens et al., 2007). Here we tested whether this effect is due to killing per se or merely due to practice, and whether this initial repeated bug-killing exerts its effect by desensitizing people or by motivating them to kill more. Participants were asked to place bugs into an “extermination grinder” at their own pace after putting either one or five bugs into the grinder initially. Participants either believed they were actually killing the bugs or knew they were not. Results showed that the initial-killing effect occurred only when people thought they were killing, suggesting this is not merely a practice effect. Also, suggesting a motivational component, among participants who killed five bugs initially, those who believed they were killing went on to kill more than those who knew the killing was simulated.