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Conscience accounting: emotional dynamics and social behaviour

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  • Madarász, Kristóf
  • Gneezy, Uri
  • Imas, Alex

Abstract

We develop a simple dynamic model of decision making in the presence of moral constraints. Norm violations induce a temporal feeling of guilt that depreciates with time. Due to endogenous fluctuations of guilt, people exhibit a dynamic inconsistency in social preferences—a behavior we term conscience accounting. We test the predictions of the model through two experiments in which people first have to make an ethical decision, and subsequently decide whether to donate to charity. We find that those who chose unethically were more likely to donate than those who did not. As predicted, donation rates were higher when the opportunity to donate came sooner after the unethical choice than later. Combined, our theoretical and empirical findings suggest a mechanism by which prosocial behavior is likely to occur within temporal brackets following an unethical choice.

Suggested Citation

  • Madarász, Kristóf & Gneezy, Uri & Imas, Alex, 2012. "Conscience accounting: emotional dynamics and social behaviour," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47994, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:47994
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    emotions; temporal brackets; deception; prosocial behavior;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics

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