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Disentangling the sources of pro-social behavior in the workplace: A field experiment


  • Mirco Tonin
  • Michael Vlassopoulos


This paper presents evidence from a field experiment, which aims to identify the two sources of workers' pro-social motivation that have been considered in the literature: action-oriented altruism and output-oriented altruism. To this end we employ an experimental design that first measures the level of effort exerted by student workers on a data entry task in an environment that elicits purely selfish behavior and we compare it to effort exerted in an environment that also induces action-oriented altruism. We then compare the latter to effort exerted in an environment where both types of altruistic preferences are elicited. We find that action-oriented altruism accounts for a significant increase in effort, while there is no additional impact due to output-oriented altruism. We also find significant gender-related differences in the treatment effect: women are very responsive to the treatment condition eliciting action-oriented altruism, while men's behavior is not affected by any of the treatments.

Suggested Citation

  • Mirco Tonin & Michael Vlassopoulos, 2009. "Disentangling the sources of pro-social behavior in the workplace: A field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00313, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00313

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    Cited by:

    1. Friedhelm Pfeiffer & Nico Schulz, 2012. "Gregariousness, interactive jobs and wages," Journal for Labour Market Research, Springer;Institute for Employment Research/ Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), vol. 45(2), pages 147-159, July.
    2. Yu-Fu Chen & Michael Funke, 2010. "Booms, Recessions And Financial Turmoil: A Fresh Look At Investment Decisions Under Cyclical Uncertainty," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 57(s1), pages 290-317, July.
    3. Tobias Regner & Hannes Koppel, 2015. "What drives motivated agents? The 'right' mission or sharing it with the principal," Jena Economic Research Papers 2015-022, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    4. Hannes Koppel & Tobias Regner, 2011. "Corporate Social Responsibility in the work place - Experimental evidence on CSR from a gift-exchange game," Jena Economic Research Papers 2011-030, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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