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Reputation and influence in charitable giving: an experiment

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  • David Reinstein
  • Gerhard Riener

Abstract

Previous experimental and observational work suggests that people act more generously when they are observed and observe others in social settings. But the explanation for this is unclear. An individual may want to send a signal of her generosity in order to improve her own reputation. Alternately (or additionally) she may value the public good or charity itself and, believing that contribution levels are strategic complements, give more in order to influence others to give more. We perform the first series of laboratory experiments that can separately estimate the impact of these two social effects, and test whether realized influence is consistent with the desire to influence, and whether either of these are consistent with anticipated influence. We find that 'leaders' are influential only when their identities are revealed along with their donations, and female leaders are more influential then males. Identified leader's predictions suggest that are aware of their influence. They respond to this by giving more than either the control group or the unidentified leaders. We find mixed evidence for 'reputation-seeking.'
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Suggested Citation

  • David Reinstein & Gerhard Riener, 2012. "Reputation and influence in charitable giving: an experiment," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 72(2), pages 221-243, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:theord:v:72:y:2012:i:2:p:221-243
    DOI: 10.1007/s11238-011-9245-8
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