On Empathy and utilitarian judgement across socioeconomic status

Research by Côté, Piff, and Willer (2013) found that through the induction of empathy in an experimental condition, the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and utilitarian moral judgment was diminished. Participant self-reported income interacted with an experimental condition such that high SES participants who empathized with a disadvantaged group member redistributed fewer experimental dollars during an online task at the losing member’s expense. This suggests that lower levels of empathy could help explain utilitarian decision-making in high SES individuals. Two pre-registered, high-powered replications were conducted in order to assess the magnitude and reliability of this finding. While the first replication attempt failed to uncover the effect, the second attempt found a pattern consistent with the original study. A meta-analysis of the replication attempts with the original author’s interaction effects was conducted. The confidence interval of the meta-analytic effect suggests that the true effect size may be as robust as reported by the original authors, or may be close to zero. Implications of the results found in the replication attempts are discussed.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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