Secret Santa Reveals the Secret Side of Giving
University of Colorado at Denver
Economic Inquiry, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 165-181, January 2009
This article shows how a secret Santa gift exchange offers unique insights into the nature of generosity and charitable giving. In a dictator experiment modified with features similar to a secret Santa gift exchange, I find that individuals contribute less when their gifts are allocated such that each person gives to fewer recipients. The results are inconsistent with both altruism and warm glow, suggesting that players are motivated by something in addition to these conventional models of generosity. Several alternative models of generosity are shown to be consistent with the experimental findings, all of which imply that, in addition to any positive externalities, giving can also carry a negative externality.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
JEL Classification: H41, C92, D62
Date posted: January 26, 2009