Law and Literature: Theory and Evidence on Empathy and Guile
Review of Law and Economics, 15(1), 2018
30 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2019 Last revised: 20 Apr 2020
Date Written: December 29, 2017
Legal theorists have suggested that literature stimulates empathy and affects moral judgement 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.
Keywords: Normative Commitments, Other-Regarding Preferences, Empathy, Deception, Guile
JEL Classification: D64, D03, K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation