Bounded Rationality, Day-4: ‘The Role of Empathy in Altruistic Behaviour: Evidence from Sequential Dictator Games’ – Prof.Sujoy Chakravarty, Professor (Economics), Jawaharlal Nehru University


Prof. Sujoy Chakravarty, Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University spoke about “The role of empathy in altruistic behaviour: Evidence from sequential dictator games.” He said that economics is a field that isn’t hijacked by crazy people, it is what we have. Even when a lot of things seem. To introduce the topic he differentiated between selfish and non-selfish motive. When it comes to warm glow or altruism, these are non-selfish behaviour. Whereas, reciprocity is a selfish behaviour but indirect reciprocity is more dependent on empathy and could be fuelled by empathy.

Prof. Chakravarty jokingly remarked that reciprocity is the oil that greases the wheel of capitalism. The concept specifies that an individual will be generous to another individual only when that individual has been good to him before. He talks about three types of reciprocity: downwards, upwards and indirect. He explained that in downstream reciprocity, “B helps A, C observes B. as a result C is more generous to B.” Whereas, in upstream reciprocity, “A helps B. B is more generous to C if has been generous to B.” But according to him, indirect reciprocity functions differently, it leads to an individual helping another one who has not interacted with him nor is there a chance of interacting with him in the future. According to Prof. Chakravarty, in indirect reciprocity “A helps B, this observed by C.  C will behave generously with B if A hasn’t.” In this case B gets two chances to play this game. C’s action will act as a compensation for A’s action.

Prof. Chakravarty has conducted his research on a large sample. He told the audience about the methodology of the study and how he has come to the conclusion of his research. He said the control conditions are empathy, randomness and information. His work is still underway and he said that he is still finding faults in his own research and trying to tease out other alternatives. He welcomed the audience to critique his work. It was an enriching and learning experience to go through the entire process o how the research is growing.


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