Emma Edelman Levine studies the psychology of altruism, trust, and ethical dilemmas. Her research seeks to understand how individuals make trade-offs between different values, and how this influences decision-making and social perception. Her main stream of research investigates the tension between honesty and benevolence. Many of our most common and difficult ethical dilemmas involve balancing honesty and benevolence. We routinely face this conflict in our personal lives, when deciding how to communicate with friends and family members, and in our professional lives, when deciding how to deliver difficult news and critical feedback. Honesty and benevolence also conflict during some of our most demanding and emotional ethical decisions. For example, when healthcare professionals communicate information to sick and elderly individuals, they must strike a delicate balance between providing hope and care, and communicating honestly. Using a variety of research methods, in both the laboratory and the field, Levine studies how individuals navigate this tension. Her research unearths specific circumstances in which people welcome and appreciate deception, as well as circumstances in which they underestimate the benefits of honesty.
In related research, Levine examines how individuals navigate other ethical dilemmas – for example, conflicts between rule following and discretion, and conflicts between autonomy and paternalism. Her second stream of research examines when and why individuals engage in prosocial behaviors, and how they give credit to others for their good deeds.
Her research has been featured in top psychology, management, and marketing journals including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the Journal of Marketing Research, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Levine earned both a BA (philosophy, politics, and economics) and a BS (economics) from the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, she holds a PhD from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her PhD studies at Wharton, Levine worked for Procter and Gamble.