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Incentives and Prosocial Behavior

  • Bénabou, Roland
  • Tirole, Jean

We build a theory of prosocial behavior that combines heterogeneity in individual altruism and greed with concerns for social reputation or self-respect. The presence of rewards or punishments creates doubt as to the true motive for which good deeds are performed, and this overjustification effect can result in a net crowding out of prosocial behavior by extrinsic incentives. The model also allows us to identify settings that are conducive to multiple social norms of behavior, and those where disclosing one?s generosity may backfire. Finally, we analyze the equilibrium contracts offered by sponsors, including the level and confidentiality or publicity of incentives. Sponsor competition may cause rewards to bid down rather than up, and can even reduce social welfare by requiring agents to engage in inefficient sacrifices.

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Paper provided by Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse in its series IDEI Working Papers with number 389.

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Date of creation: May 2003
Date of revision: Jan 2006
Publication status: Published in American Economic Review, vol. 96, n. 5, 2006, p. 1652-1678.
Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:2708
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