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Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Pride


  • Luigi Butera
  • Robert Metcalfe
  • William Morrison
  • Dmitry Taubinsky


Public recognition is frequently used to motivate desirable behavior, yet its welfare effects—such as costs of shame or gains from pride—are rarely measured. We develop a portable empirical methodology for measuring and monetizing social image utility, and we deploy it in experiments on exercise and charitable behavior. In all experiments, public recognition motivates desirable behavior but creates highly unequal image payoffs. High-performing individuals enjoy significant utility gains, while low-performing individuals incur significant utility losses. We estimate structural models of social signaling, and we use the models to explore the social efficiency of public recognition policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Luigi Butera & Robert Metcalfe & William Morrison & Dmitry Taubinsky, 2019. "Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Pride," NBER Working Papers 25637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25637
    Note: AG EH PE POL

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    Cited by:

    1. Julien Senn & Jan Schmitz & Christian Zehnder, 2023. "Leveraging social comparisons: the role of peer assignment policies," ECON - Working Papers 427, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Aug 2023.
    2. C. Yiwei Zhang & Jeffrey Hemmeter & Judd B. Kessler & Robert D. Metcalfe & Robert Weathers, 2023. "Nudging Timely Wage Reporting: Field Experimental Evidence from the U.S. Supplemental Security Income Program," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 69(3), pages 1341-1353, March.
    3. Derksen, Laura & Kerwin, Jason Theodore & Reynoso, Natalia Ordaz & Sterck, Olivier, 2021. "Appointments: A More Effective Commitment Device for Health Behaviors," SocArXiv y8gh7, Center for Open Science.
    4. Antinyan, Armenak & Asatryan, Zareh, 2019. "Nudging for tax compliance: A meta-analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-055, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    5. Ericson, Keith M. Marzilli, 2020. "When consumers do not make an active decision: Dynamic default rules and their equilibrium effects," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 369-385.
    6. Simon Haenni & Guilherme Lichand, 2020. "Harming to signal: child marriage vs. public donations in Malawi," ECON - Working Papers 348, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    7. Vasilisa Petrishcheva & Gerhard Riener & Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch, 2023. "Loss aversion in social image concerns," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 26(3), pages 622-645, July.
    8. Banerjee, Ritwik & Mustafi, Priyoma, 2020. "Using Social Recognition to Address the Gender Difference in Volunteering for Low Promotability Tasks," IZA Discussion Papers 13956, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Kessler, Judd B. & Low, Corinne & Singhal, Monica, 2021. "Social policy instruments and the compliance environment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 192(C), pages 248-267.
    10. Hunt Allcott & Daniel Cohen & William Morrison & Dmitry Taubinsky, 2022. "When do "Nudges" Increase Welfare?," NBER Working Papers 30740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Perino, Grischa & Schwirplies, Claudia, 2022. "Meaty arguments and fishy effects: Field experimental evidence on the impact of reasons to reduce meat consumption," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 114(C).
    12. Gauri, Varun & Jamison, Julian C. & Mazar, Nina & Ozier, Owen, 2019. "Motivating Bureaucrats through Social Recognition: External Validity — A Tale of Two States," IZA Discussion Papers 12251, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General

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