Challenging the Intrapersonal Empathy Gap An Experiment with Self-Commitment Power
Loewenstein (1996, 2005) identifies an intrapersonal empathy gap. In the respective experiments, subjects make choices with delayed consequences. When entering the state where these consequences would unfold, they get the possibility to revise their initial choice. Revisions are more substantial when these two choices are made in different emotional states. The concept of the empathy gap suggests that the initial choice represents a misprediction of future preferences. However, it might alternatively be based on a well understood disagreement with future preferences. In this sense, people would like to add: "But don't ask me again!" To disentangle both explanations, we induce two different emotional states in each subject and offer a self-commitment device in the first state. In one condition, subjects move from a "cold" state of reflection to a "hot" state of impulsiveness. In the other condition, this order is reversed. We find evidence for the hot-to-cold empathy gap, but not for the cold-to-hot empathy gap when subjects can self-commit to their initial choice.
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