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Noblesse Oblige? Moral Identity and Prosocial Behavior in the Face of Selfishness

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  • Dessi, Roberta
  • Monin, Benoît

Abstract

What makes individuals conform or diverge after observing prosocial or selfish behavior by others? We study experimentally how social comparison (observing a peer’s behavior) interacts with identity motives for cooperation. Participants play two games. We increase the strength of the identity motive by inducing subjects in a treatment condition to infer their identity from behavior in the first game. Cooperators who observe a peer defect donate 28% more to their unknown partner in the second game in the treatment than in the control group. Our results are consistent with the predictions of Bénabou and Tirole (2011), and show that the "suckerto- saint effect" identified by Jordan and Monin (2008) can have important behavioral consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Dessi, Roberta & Monin, Benoît, 2012. "Noblesse Oblige? Moral Identity and Prosocial Behavior in the Face of Selfishness," IDEI Working Papers 750, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  • Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:26502
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lorna Zischka & Mark Casson & Marina Della Giusta, 2016. "'Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.' A BHPS study of the interaction between giving and welfare," Economics & Management Discussion Papers em-dp2016-10, Henley Business School, Reading University.
    2. Lorna Zischka, 2016. "The Interaction between Prosocial (Giving) Behaviours and Social Cohesion," Economics & Management Discussion Papers em-dp2016-07, Henley Business School, Reading University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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