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Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior - Testing �Conditional Cooperation� in a Field Experiment

Author

Listed:
  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Stephan Meier

Abstract

People behave pro-socially in a wide variety of situations that standard economic theory is unable to explain. Social comparison is one explanation for such pro-social behavior: people contribute if others contribute or cooperate as well. This paper tests social comparison in a field experiment at the University of Zurich. Each semester every single student has to decide whether he or she wants to contribute to two Social Funds. We provided 2500 randomly selected students with information about the average behavior of the student population. Some received the information that a high percentage of the student population contributed, while others received the information that a relatively low percentage contributed. The results show that people behave pro-socially, conditional on others. The more others cooperate, the more one is inclined to do so as well. The type of person is important. We are able to fix the �types� by looking at revealed past behavior. Some persons seem to care more about the pro-social behavior of others, while other �types� are not affected by the average behavior of the reference group.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, "undated". "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior - Testing �Conditional Cooperation� in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 162, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:162
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    File URL: http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp_iew/iewwp162.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Graham, Liam & Oswald, Andrew J., 2006. "Hedonic Capital," Economic Research Papers 269638, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
    2. Urs Fischbacher & Simon G�chter, 2005. "Heterogeneous social preferences and the dynamics of free riding in public goods," IEW - Working Papers 261, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    3. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
    4. Stephen Meier & Bruno Frey, 2004. "Do Business Students Make Good Citizens?," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 141-163.
    5. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2006. "Cost Benefit Rules when Nature Counts," Working Papers in Economics 198, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 09 May 2006.
    6. Stephan Meier & Alois Stutzer, "undated". "Matching Donations - Subsidizing Charitable Giving in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 181, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public goods; donations; conditional cooperation; social comparisons;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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