This University of Sheffield SURE scheme project was designed to investigate the link between empathy and economic trust. Recently, research has looked into the role of empathy in altruistic sharing, finding that affective empathy and justice sensitivity go some way to explain altruistic economic behaviour (Edele et al., 2012). Yet the role of empathy in economic trust, where one party gives an amount to another in the anticipation that there will be a return, is largely unexplored. This is a significant omission as trust plays an important part in the economic decisions we make day to day (Fehr, 2009).

This study is part of a wider EPSRC project on ‘Creating and Exploring Digital Empathy’ (CEDE). Project CEDE is a multidisciplinary venture that aims to elucidate the role of empathy as it is experienced in digital interactions. Given that an ever-increasing amount of economic transactions are made in a digital environment, there is a significant alteration in the presence of social cues, like facial expression and vocal inclinations, which are known to facilitate empathic connection. This change in empathy at the ‘point of sale’ may have important consequences for our consumer decisions.

Student researcher: Olivia Wills

Supervisor: Philip Powell