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Bracelets of Pride and Guilt? An Experimental Test of Self-Signaling in Charitable Giving

  • Joël J. van der Weele
  • Ferdinand von Siemens
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    Self-signaling theory argues that individuals partly behave prosocially to create or uphold a favorable self-image. To study self-signaling theory, we investigate whether increasing self-image concerns affects charitable giving. In our experiment subjects divide 20 euros between themselves and a charity. Some randomly determined participants are induced to wear a bracelet for the two weeks following their donation decision. This bracelet serves as a private reminder of the experiment, thus making the donation more important for future self-image. If self-signaling plays a role, participants having to wear the bracelet should donate more. We do not find that wearing a bracelet has any effect on donation behavior. This holds although subjects having to wear the bracelet report that at the moment of making the donation, they expect to more often remember the experiment in the following two weeks.

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    Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4674.

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    Date of creation: 2014
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    Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4674
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    1. 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.
    2. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2003. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," IDEI Working Papers 389, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised Jan 2006.
    3. Armin Falk, 2007. "Gift Exchange in the Field," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(5), pages 1501-1511, 09.
    4. Benabou, R. & Tirole, J., 2001. "Willpower and Personal Rules," Papers 216, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
    5. Jason Dana & Roberto Weber & Jason Kuang, 2007. "Exploiting moral wiggle room: experiments demonstrating an illusory preference for fairness," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 67-80, October.
    6. Cueva, Carlos & Dessi, Roberta, 2012. "Charitable Giving, Self-Image and Personality," IDEI Working Papers 748, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
    7. Grossman, Zachary & van der Weele, Joël, 2013. "Self-Image and Strategic Ignorance in Moral Dilemmas," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0bp6z29t, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
    8. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Identity, Morals, and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 805-855.
    9. Cueva, Carlos & Dessi, Roberta, 2012. "Charitable Giving, Self-Image and Personality," TSE Working Papers 12-342, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    10. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
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