Inconsistencies in repeated refugee status decisions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Consistency in civil servant decisions is paramount to upholding judicial equality for citizens and individuals seeking safety through governmental intervention. We investigated refugee status decisions made by a sample of civil servants at the Swedish Migration Agency. We hypothesized, based on the emotional demands such decisions bring with them, that participants would exhibit a compassion fade effect such that refugee status was less likely to be granted over time. To test this, we administered a questionnaire containing brief presentations of asylum seekers and asked participants to judge how likely they would be to give refugee status to the person. Crucially the first, middle, and final case presented were matched on decision relevant characteristics. Consistent with our hypothesis, we saw a significant decline in ratings. These effects were accentuated by the amount of time a participant had worked at the agency, consistent with depletion of affective resources, and attenuated in workers with greater responsibility and additional training. We conclude that active regulation of empathic and affective responses to asylum seekers may play a role in determining the outcome in refugee status decisions.


External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Applied Psychology
  • International Migration and Ethnic Relations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-578
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch