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Standing in Others’ Shoes: Empathy and Positional Behavior

Working paper
Författare Alpaslan Akay
Gökhan Karabulut
Bilge Terzioğlu
Förlag University of Gothenburg
Förlagsort Gothenburg
Publiceringsår 2019
Publicerad vid Institutionen för nationalekonomi med statistik
Språk en
Länkar hdl.handle.net/2077/61710
Ämnesord Dispositional Empathy, Survey Experiments, Positional Concerns
Ämneskategorier Nationalekonomi

Sammanfattning

Studies show that people are concerned with other people’s consumption position in a varying degree with respect to the type of goods consumed and individual characteristics. Using both survey experiments and a large survey of subjective wellbeing (SWB) dataset, this paper presents robust associations between the degree of empathic capacity and positional concerns for consumption items involving pleasure and pain. The paper exploits both empathy quotient (EQ) and interpersonal reactivity index (IRI) measures of empathic capacity, i.e., dispositional empathy, which are sufficient measures capturing affective and cognitive aspects of empathy. Positional concerns are identified directly using a series of stated choice experiments and indirectly using the SWB approach. The main result of the paper is that positional concerns vary substantially with the levels of empathic capacity. Both EQ and IRI are found to be positively associated with positional concerns for “goods” (e.g., after-tax income, market value of a luxury car), reflecting a degree of selfregarded feelings and behavior to reduce personal distress, and negatively associated with positional concerns for “bads” (e.g., working hours and poverty rates), reflecting a degree of other-regarding feelings and behavior. The results are robust with respect to various checks including statistical specifications, reference groups, and omitted variables (e.g., prosocial behavior and competitivity) that could bias the results.

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