Paying to Be Nice: Consistency and Costly Prosocial Behavior
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management
University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
Leif D. Nelson
University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business
Disney Imaginations - Boston
Michael I. Norton
Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit
July 15, 2011
Management Science, Vol. 58, pp. 179-187, 2012
Building on previous research in economics and psychology, we propose that the costliness of initial prosocial behavior positively influences whether that behavior leads to consistent future behaviors. We suggest that costly prosocial behaviors serve as a signal of prosocial identity and that people subsequently behave in line with that self-perception. In contrast, costless prosocial acts do not signal much about one’s prosocial identity, so subsequent behavior is less likely to be consistent and may even show the reductions in prosocial behavior associated with licensing. The results of a laboratory experiment and a large field experiment converge to support our account.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Date posted: March 4, 2012
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