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The (Im)Moral Man - An Experimental Study on Empathy, Hypocrisy and Cooperation
Last registered on July 17, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
The (Im)Moral Man - An Experimental Study on Empathy, Hypocrisy and Cooperation
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002317
Initial registration date
July 15, 2017
Last updated
July 17, 2017 12:50 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2017-06-01
End date
2017-09-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We study internal vs. external motivation with regard to helping behavior. Batson (1987, 1991) has formulated the “empathy-altruism hypothesis” (EAH). It claims that empathic concern felt for a person in need produces an altruistic motivation to relieve that need. However, research has neglected the motivational mechanisms whereby empathetic concern elicits help giving. For example, feeling empathetic concern for another person could potentially trigger external pressure to help others (e.g., adherence to social or cultural norms could be motivated by tangible rewards, punishments, guilt, or pressure from others), which in turn could cause helping behavior driven by external motives, rather than being due to an increased motivation to act in accordance with internal moral values. Using a comprehensive laboratory experiment, we test EAH. We experimentally prime empathy. Moreover, in contrast to previous studies, we provide subjects with an opportunity to only appear moral in the eyes of someone in need, without actually being so (hypocrisy case). If empathy causes an internal motivation to help, we should observe more helping behavior and no hypocrisy. However, if empathy merely triggers external motives to help, we would expect to see an increase in hypocrisy. The various benefits of helping behavior for the self will also be investigated; e.g., is acting hypocritically enough to reduce aversive arousal? Practical implications for organizations (e.g., team work) and markets (e.g., for health care) will be discussed.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Buchholz, Margarita. 2017. "The (Im)Moral Man - An Experimental Study on Empathy, Hypocrisy and Cooperation." AEA RCT Registry. July 17. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2317-1.0.
Former Citation
Buchholz, Margarita. 2017. "The (Im)Moral Man - An Experimental Study on Empathy, Hypocrisy and Cooperation." AEA RCT Registry. July 17. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2317/history/19547.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2017-06-01
Intervention End Date
2017-09-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
splitting decision (fair or unfair), transfer (measure cooperation)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Empathy will be experimentally primed and subjects will play the Dictator Game (DG), where they can either choose the outcome 8€/2€ or 5€/5€. In order to keep conditions comparable, a control group will receive a neutral prime instead. It is assumed that in the Empathy condition significantly more dictators will choose the equal outcome, which corresponds to helping the other as mentioned before. Moreover, in contrast to previous studies, in two further treatments, subjects will be provided with an opportunity to only appear moral in the eyes of someone in need, without actually being so (hypocrisy case). Therefore the DG will be extended such that dictators get the option to toss a coin in addition to decide about the outcome (coin marked with 5/5 and 8/2). Here again there will be a treatment with a neutral prime and one where subjects will be primed with empathy. Subjects have to tell if they used the coin and which outcome was implemented by the coin (or themselves in case of no coin use). Hypocrisy occurs if subjects indicated coin use but (significantly) more than 50% of the outcomes will be 8/2. If empathy causes an internal motivation to help, we should observe more helping behavior (no coin, 5/5 outcome) and no hypocrisy. But if empathy merely triggers external motives to help, one would expect to see an increase in hypocrisy (coin, 8/2 outcome). In total there are 4 treatments: DGNeutral, DGEmpathy, DGCoinNeutral, DGCoinEmpathy. In order to also investigate if empathy has a lasting spill over effect on trust, dictators will play a trust game after the main task in each treatment. Transfers in the Empathy conditions are assumed to be significantly higher relative to the control group if empathy induces an internal motivation to help.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
randomization by a software and algorithm
Randomization Unit
experimental session
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
240 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
240 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
60 control, 60 empathy, 60 control coin flip, 60 empathy coin flip
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS