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Can Lonely People Behave Morally? The Joint Influence of Loneliness and Empathy on Moral Identity

Abstract We examine how loneliness moderates the effect of empathy on moral identity: the extent to which being a moral person is important to an individual's identity. Results of four studies show that only lonely people have increased moral identity when they have high (vs. low) empathy; empathy does not reliably increase moral identity for nonlonely people. We demonstrate these effects with psychological measures of moral identity as well as with downstream moral behaviors in various consumer settings. Our findings are consistent with the motivation theory of loneliness and empathy: Lonely people are capable, but are not motivated to empathize.

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