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Giving versus Taking: A “Real Donation” Comparison of Warm Glow and Cold Prickle


  • Philip J. Grossman
  • Catherine C. Eckel


This paper revisits the question of “warm glow” vs. „cold prickle” and the provision of public goods. It also addresses the question, is giving in Dictator Games an expression of altruism or an artifact of experimentation? What is unique about this paper is that we employ a “real donation” lab experiment in a context-rich environment: contributions go to actual public goods (i.e., charitable organizations). Our study focuses directly on subjects‟ willingness to contribute to and take from a charity. We do this by allocating the initial endowment in one of three ways: either all to the subjects, all to the charity, or evenly between the two. Subjects are allowed to either contribute or take back as little or as much as they wish. We find that how the endowment is initially allocated is irrelevant when comparing the two extreme cases. On the other hand, we find evidence suggesting that, when the endowment is evenly split between the two parties, the initial even split seems to act as a powerful focal point: the final outcome is insignificantly different from the initial allocation.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip J. Grossman & Catherine C. Eckel, 2012. "Giving versus Taking: A “Real Donation” Comparison of Warm Glow and Cold Prickle," Monash Economics Working Papers 40-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2012-40

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James Andreoni, 1995. "Warm-Glow versus Cold-Prickle: The Effects of Positive and Negative Framing on Cooperation in Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 1-21.
    2. Li, Sherry Xin & Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J. & Brown, Tara Larson, 2011. "Giving to government: Voluntary taxation in the lab," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1190-1201, October.
    3. John A. List, 2007. "On the Interpretation of Giving in Dictator Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 482-493.
    4. Christina M. Fong & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2009. "What Determines Giving to Hurricane Katrina Victims? Experimental Evidence on Racial Group Loyalty," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 64-87, April.
    5. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Subsidizing Charitable Giving with Rebates or Matching: Further Laboratory Evidence," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 794-807, April.
    6. Martin Dufwenberg & Simon Gaechter & Heike Hennig-Schmidt, 2006. "The Framing of Games and the Psychology of Strategic Choice," Discussion Papers 2006-20, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    7. James Andreoni & B. Douglas Bernheim, 2009. "Social Image and the 50-50 Norm: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis of Audience Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(5), pages 1607-1636, September.
    8. R. Cookson, 2000. "Framing Effects in Public Goods Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 3(1), pages 55-79, June.
    9. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-1458, December.
    10. Sonnemans, Joep & Schram, Arthur & Offerman, Theo, 1998. "Public good provision and public bad prevention: The effect of framing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 143-161, January.
    11. Park, Eun-Soo, 2000. "Warm-glow versus cold-prickle: a further experimental study of framing effects on free-riding," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 405-421, December.
    12. Willinger, Marc & Ziegelmeyer, Anthony, 1999. "Framing and cooperation in public good games: an experiment with an interior solution," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 323-328, December.
    13. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Cooperation in Public-Goods Experiments: Kindness or Confusion?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(4), pages 891-904, September.
    14. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 1996. "Altruism in Anonymous Dictator Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-191, October.
    15. Christina M. Fong, 2007. "Evidence from an Experiment on Charity to Welfare Recipients: Reciprocity, Altruism and the Empathic Responsiveness Hypothesis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(522), pages 1008-1024, July.
    16. Daniel Houser & Robert Kurzban, 2002. "Revisiting Kindness and Confusion in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1062-1069, September.
    17. Nicholas Bardsley, 2008. "Dictator game giving: altruism or artefact?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 11(2), pages 122-133, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Oleg Korenok & Edward Millner & Laura Razzolini, 2014. "Taking, giving, and impure altruism in dictator games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(3), pages 488-500, September.
    2. Lenka Fiala & Charles N. Noussair, 2017. "Charitable Giving, Emotions, And The Default Effect," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(4), pages 1792-1812, October.
    3. Shachar Kariv & Daniel Lee & John List & Michael Price, 2016. "The Richness of Giving: Charity Selection and Charitable Gifts in a Large Field Experiment," Artefactual Field Experiments 00559, The Field Experiments Website.
    4. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Joo Young Jeon & Bibhas Saha, 2016. "Gender differences in the giving and taking variants of the dictator game," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 14-09R, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    5. Zhang, Le & Ortmann, Andreas, 2016. "Pro-social or anti-social, or both? A within- and between-subjects study of social preferences," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 23-32.

    More about this item


    Warm Glow; Cold Prickle; Charity; Altruism;

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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