To the experimenters, this seemed sadistically cruel -- particularly in the case of the turtle and the snake. (Presumably it is understandable that some people would want to run over a tarantula, and when you factored out the people running over the tarantula, the numbers went down to 2.8%.) From the article:
It is still quite a surprisingly high number. At least compared to a 2008 study using the Psychopathy Checklist, which discovered that 1.2 percent of the US population were potential psychopaths. 1.2 vs 2.8 is a huge difference.
Now, I'm not going to pull a PETA—I actually hate PETA—and say that the six (or 2.8) percent are all potential psychopaths, but clearly these people have some kind of mental problem. At the very least, their empathy circuits must be pretty broken. Personally, I wouldn't like to be friends with any of them.
And I really don't care which kind of animal they ran over because all of them were locatedoutside of the lane and posed absolutely no danger to the drivers. Needless to say, if a turtle or a snake is on the middle of your lane, never risk your life to save it. Your safety must come first, but this was not the case. This was all the contrary. And it's quite disgusting.
Is it really a surprising number? And does it make any sense to suggest that all animal killers are sociopaths and all sociopaths are animal killers? Maybe some of them are just really bad drivers. I probably wouldn't go out of my way to kill the animal. In fact most of the time I go out of my way to avoid the animal. Why? I don't know, getting blood and guts all over the automobile, the possibility of losing control by swerving to hit it, or any other reason. I'm curious why they didn't do follow up interviews with the people asking them why they did or did not run them over. Some of them might lie and said that they didn't realize they did, but I bet you would get honest answers from at least some of the people.