IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Pride


  • Luigi Butera
  • Robert Metcalfe
  • William Morrison
  • Dmitry Taubinsky


Public recognition is frequently used to motivate desirable behavior, yet its welfare effects—such as costs of shame or gains from pride—are rarely measured. We develop a portable empirical methodology for measuring and monetizing social image utility, and we deploy it in experiments on exercise and charitable behavior. In all experiments, public recognition motivates desirable behavior but creates highly unequal image payoffs. High-performing individuals enjoy significant utility gains, while low-performing individuals incur significant utility losses. We estimate structural models of social signaling, and we use the models to explore the social efficiency of public recognition policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Luigi Butera & Robert Metcalfe & William Morrison & Dmitry Taubinsky, 2022. "Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Pride," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 112(1), pages 122-168, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:112:y:2022:i:1:p:122-68
    DOI: 10.1257/aer.20190433

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    Other versions of this item:


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Fries, Tilman, 2023. "Replication Report: The Welfare Effects of Pride and Shame," I4R Discussion Paper Series 64, The Institute for Replication (I4R).
    2. David Almog & Romain Gauriot & Lionel Page & Daniel Martin, 2024. "AI Oversight and Human Mistakes: Evidence from Centre Court," Papers 2401.16754,, revised Feb 2024.
    3. Ericson, Keith M. Marzilli, 2020. "When consumers do not make an active decision: Dynamic default rules and their equilibrium effects," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 369-385.
    4. Andor, Mark Andreas & Götte, Lorenz & Price, Michael Keith & Schulze Tilling, Anna & Tomberg, Lukas, 2023. "Differences in how and why social comparisons and real-time feedback impact resource use: Evidence from a field experiment," Ruhr Economic Papers 1059, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    5. Julien Senn & Jan Schmitz & Christian Zehnder, 2023. "Leveraging social comparisons: the role of peer assignment policies," ECON - Working Papers 427, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Aug 2023.
    6. Simon Haenni & Guilherme Lichand, 2020. "Harming to signal: child marriage vs. public donations in Malawi," IEW - Working Papers 348, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Mar 2021.
    7. Vasilisa Petrishcheva & Gerhard Riener & Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch, 2023. "Loss aversion in social image concerns," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 26(3), pages 622-645, July.
    8. Banerjee, Ritwik & Mustafi, Priyoma, 2020. "Using Social Recognition to Address the Gender Difference in Volunteering for Low Promotability Tasks," IZA Discussion Papers 13956, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Laura Derksen & Jason. T Kerwin & Natalia Ordaz Reynoso & Olivier Sterck, 2021. "Appointments: A More Effective Commitment Device for Health Behaviors," CSAE Working Paper Series 2021-13, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    10. George Loewenstein & Zachary Wojtowicz, 2023. "The Economics of Attention," CESifo Working Paper Series 10712, CESifo.
    11. Moisson, Paul-Henri, 2024. "Meritocracy and Inequality," TSE Working Papers 24-1518, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Apr 2024.
    12. Kessler, Judd B. & Low, Corinne & Singhal, Monica, 2021. "Social policy instruments and the compliance environment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 192(C), pages 248-267.
    13. Antinyan, Armenak & Asatryan, Zareh, 2019. "Nudging for tax compliance: A meta-analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-055, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    14. C. Yiwei Zhang & Jeffrey Hemmeter & Judd B. Kessler & Robert D. Metcalfe & Robert Weathers, 2023. "Nudging Timely Wage Reporting: Field Experimental Evidence from the U.S. Supplemental Security Income Program," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 69(3), pages 1341-1353, March.
    15. Hunt Allcott & Daniel Cohen & William Morrison & Dmitry Taubinsky, 2022. "When do "Nudges" Increase Welfare?," NBER Working Papers 30740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Perino, Grischa & Schwirplies, Claudia, 2022. "Meaty arguments and fishy effects: Field experimental evidence on the impact of reasons to reduce meat consumption," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 114(C).
    17. Gauri, Varun & Jamison, Julian C. & Mazar, Nina & Ozier, Owen, 2019. "Motivating Bureaucrats through Social Recognition: External Validity — A Tale of Two States," IZA Discussion Papers 12251, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:112:y:2022:i:1:p:122-68. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.