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Let me, or Let George? Motives of competing altruists

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  • Bergstrom, Ted
  • Garratt, Rod
  • Leo, Greg

Abstract

Simple game theoretic models suggest that when costly individual action can benefit an entire group, larger groups fare worse than smaller groups because of the free-rider problem arising from “diffusion of responsibility.” Nevertheless, there are conspicuous examples of large groups in which a minority of members voluntarily supply public goods that benefit the entire group. We propose that this happens because some people get pleasure from performing a good deed, even if others would be willing and able to do it. We call such behavior let-me-do-it altruism. We perform an experiment designed to identify the presence of let-me-do-it altruism in a population. Our approach is to create a context-rich environment in which subjects reveal their preferences over group outcomes by their actions. Treatment variations provide insights into how cost and recognition impact behavior.
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Suggested Citation

  • Bergstrom, Ted & Garratt, Rod & Leo, Greg, 2015. "Let me, or Let George? Motives of competing altruists," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt48m9547q, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt48m9547q
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    Cited by:

    1. Pol Campos-Mercade, 2020. "When are groups less moral than individuals?," CEBI working paper series 20-26, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. The Center for Economic Behavior and Inequality (CEBI).
    2. Shakun D. Mago & Jennifer Pate, 2023. "Greed and fear: Competitive and charitable priming in a threshold volunteer's dilemma," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 61(1), pages 138-161, January.
    3. Kloosterman, Andrew & Mago, Shakun, 2023. "The infinitely repeated volunteer's dilemma: An experimental study," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 812-832.
    4. Campos-Mercade, Pol, 2021. "The volunteer’s dilemma explains the bystander effect," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 186(C), pages 646-661.
    5. Campos-Mercade, Pol, 2022. "When are groups less moral than individuals?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 20-36.
    6. Rodney Garratt & Cyril Monnet, 2023. "An impossibility theorem on truth-telling in fully decentralised systems," BIS Working Papers 1117, Bank for International Settlements.
    7. Andrew J. Healy & Jennifer G. Pate, 2018. "Cost asymmetry and incomplete information in a volunteer’s dilemma experiment," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 51(3), pages 465-491, October.
    8. Linda Babcock & Maria P. Recalde & Lise Vesterlund & Laurie Weingart, 2017. "Gender Differences in Accepting and Receiving Requests for Tasks with Low Promotability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(3), pages 714-747, March.
    9. Nguyen, Huy X., 2020. "Pretending volunteers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 261-278.

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