Empathy as a persuader

Last registered on December 06, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Empathy as a persuader
Initial registration date
December 04, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 06, 2023, 9:03 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
We explore how being empathetic to borrowers would help with debt collections. In partnership with a leading debt collection agency in the Philippines, we randomise a group of collectors into two groups. One control group and one empathy-treated group. We collect data on the borrowers' willingness to pay and the agents' performance.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Ceccarelli, Marco and Lidingrong Huang. 2023. "Empathy as a persuader." AEA RCT Registry. December 06. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.12649-1.0
Experimental Details


We aim to randomise more than 10,000 debtors into two group, the control group that they get called and asked to repay as in the baseline, and the empathy-enhancement treatment group that they get called and asked to repay but the calls now involve added empathy from the debt collectors.

We focus on how empathy coming from the debt-collectors influences debtors' willingness to continue repaying. The first quantifiable outcome variable is whether they promise to start repaying over the phone. We can also track their actual behaviour.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Whether the borrowers are more likely to pay by making a commitment (binary outcome variable), and the amount of money they actually repaid, if any.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
A repayment commitment is made when the borrowers verbally agree to start repaying and this is recorded by the collectors.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
A group of collectors is to be randomised into two groups.
For agents in Group A (control), we do the usual thing. We deliver the training as per usual and there is no empathy added whatsoever.
For agents in Group B (treated), we add empathy elements on top of the usual training.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomisation by a computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Between 60 - 70 collectors, each of them is treated as a cluster.
Sample size: planned number of observations
13,000 collectors
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
30 - 35 both groups
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
The Economics & Business Ethics Committee (EBEC) at the University of Amsterdam
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials