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Being Empathic Doesn’t Make You a Pushover

The researchers wanted to understand what influenced aggressive investing and how that determined players’ winnings. In particular, they looked at whether being prosocial (other-oriented and empathic) toward others, in general, affected people’s aggression. They also considered whether deliberating longer or being stressed influenced investment choices. In initial analyses, the researchers observed that participants were generally less willing to invest in attacking another for gain than they were in defending their own earnings. This fit with longstanding economic theory around decision making. “People are more motivated — they’re willing to invest more — to protect against loss than they are to increase wealth or prosperity,” says Carsten de Dreu. They also found, unsurprisingly, that more prosocial people tended to attack others less aggressively for gain than people who were less prosocial — though they were just as fierce at defending against loss.

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