Humans reveal dark side in turtle experiment

An undergraduate project found drivers would purposely swerve to run over turtles

Natasha Lennard
December 28, 2012 2:59AM (UTC)

An unnerving number of people swerve in order to kill small animals when driving, according to the findings of a student at South Carolina's Clemson University. As the AP reported, Nathan Weaver, 22, inadvertently witnessed the sadism in action when he placed rubber turtles on a busy road and observed as part of a project intended to help box turtles -- a species in the decline -- to safely cross the road. One in 50 cars purposefully aimed to kill the fake creature -- which, Weaver noted, is a significant number given that a real turtle can take around 10 minutes to cross the street.

"This was a bit shocking," said the student.


According to the AP, Weaver's observations align with a study by Western Carolina University psychology professor Hal Herzog, who found that 34 people out of his class of 100 had intentionally run over a turtle or been in a car with someone who had at some point. Two-thirds of those who admitted this were male.

"They aren't thinking, really. It is not something people think about. It just seems fun at the time," Herzog said. "It is the dark side of human nature."

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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