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Law and Literature: Theory and Evidence on Empathy and Guile

Chen, Daniel L. (2019) Law and Literature: Theory and Evidence on Empathy and Guile. Review of Law and Economics, 15 (1).

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Legal theorists have suggested that literature stimulates empathy and affects moral judgment and decision-making. I present a model to formalize the potential effects of empathy on third parties. Empathy is modeled as having two components–sympathy (the decision-maker’s reference point about what the third party deserves) and emotional theory of mind (anticipating the emotions of another in reaction to certain actions). I study the causal effect with a data entry experiment. Workers enter text whose content is randomized to relate to empathy, guile, or a control. Workers then take the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) and participate in a simple economic game. On average, workers exposed to empathy become less deceptive towards third parties. The result is stronger when workers are nearly indifferent. These results are robust to a variety of controls and model specifications.

Item Type: Article
Language: English
Date: March 2019
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Normative Commitments, Other-Regarding Preferences, Empathy, Deception, Guile
JEL Classification: D03 - Behavioral Economics; Underlying Principles
D64 - Altruism
K00 - General
Divisions: TSE-R (Toulouse)
Site: UT1
Date Deposited: 22 May 2018 08:50
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2020 13:11
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