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Experimental evidence of self-image concerns as motivation for giving

  • Tonin, Mirco
  • Vlassopoulos, Michael

In this paper we present evidence of self-image concerns in charitable giving using a laboratory experiment. Subjects make a series of three decisions of allocating an endowment of £10 between themselves and a passive recipient that is either a charity or the experimenters. When making these decision subjects are informed that one of them will be chosen randomly at the end to determine payoffs. After all decisions have been made and it has been revealed which decision will determine payoffs we offer subjects an opportunity to opt out from their initial decision and receive £10 instead. We find that almost a quarter of subjects choose to opt out, while around one third opt out from a positive donation. The fact that a subject decides to revise a decision to give and chooses instead to keep the whole amount – an option that was available when she made the first decision and was not exercised – indicates that giving in the first instance was not motivated solely by altruism toward the recipient. We argue that opting out can be explained through a combination of a reduced benefit of self-signaling due to satiation, and an increase in the costs of giving at the opt out stage, as they are realized with certainty.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 90 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 19-27

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:90:y:2013:i:c:p:19-27
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Dan Ariely & Anat Bracha & Stephan Meier, 2007. "Doing good or doing well? Image motivation and monetary incentives in behaving prosocially," Working Papers 07-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  2. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2008. "Social Image Concerns and Pro-Social Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 3771, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2004. "Incentives and Prosocial Behaviour," CEPR Discussion Papers 4633, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory Of Fairness, Competition, And Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868, August.
  5. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2011. "Conspicuous generosity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1131-1143.
  6. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus & Tjøtta, Sigve & Torsvik, Gaute, 2007. "Testing Guilt Aversion," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 683, Stockholm School of Economics.
  7. Broberg, Tomas & Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2007. "Is generosity involuntary?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 32-37, January.
  8. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2006. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 5768, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 1-56.
  10. Jaromir Kovarik, 2008. "Giving it now or later: altruism and discounting," Working Papers. Serie AD 2008-10, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  11. Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2011. "An Experimental Investigation of Intrinsic Motivations for Giving," IZA Discussion Papers 5461, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Social image concerns and prosocial behavior: Field evidence from a nonlinear incentive scheme," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 225-237, November.
  13. repec:feb:framed:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-77, June.
  15. Grossman, Zachary, 2010. "Self-Signaling Versus Social-Signaling in Giving," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt7320x2cp, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  16. James Andreoni, 2007. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001459, UCLA Department of Economics.
  17. Jacobsen, Karin & Eika, Kari H. & Helland, Leif & Lind, Jo Thori & Nyborg, Karine, 2011. "Are Nurses More Altruistic than Real Estate Brokers?," IZA Discussion Papers 5721, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. Edward P. Lazear & Ulrike Malmendier & Roberto A. Weber, 2012. "Sorting in Experiments with Application to Social Preferences," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 136-63, January.
  19. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
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