Can Empathy Promote Cooperation When Status and Money Matter?

‘Lower status’ people more likely to share wealth than ‘higher status’ people. When playing an economic game those that were assigned as ‘lower status’ were more likely to share their wealth than their ‘higher status’ counterparts, according to a new study.

In the present study we ask, Does empathy also support cooperative behaviors when the status (high, low) of an individual differs relative to other group members and is determined by either chance or effort? In response to this unexplored question, the present study involved a series of 4 experiments using a linear public goods game (Experiment 1–3, 4-player; Experiment 4, 2-player). Regardless of the way in which status was achieved (chance, effort), those with low status cooperated more compared with their high-status counterparts. Empathy in and of itself revealed very small overall increases in cooperative behavior. Overall, status and monetary incentives appear to be more salient than empathy in guiding behaviors in a social dilemma task.


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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