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Wallflowers: Experimental Evidence of an Aversion to Standing Out

32 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2013 Last revised: 30 May 2016

Daniel B. Jones

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business

Sera Linardi

University of Pittsburgh

Date Written: June 5, 2013

Abstract

An extensive literature on reputation signaling in prosocial settings has focused on an intrinsic desire for positive reputation. In our paper, we provide experimental evidence that some individuals are averse to both positive and negative reputation, and will, therefore, respond to visibility by signaling that they are an “average altruism type”, relative to their audience. We formalize our hypotheses about “wallflower” behavior in a theoretical model. Our experimental results show that instead of uniformly increasing contributions, visibility draws contributions towards the middle of others’ contributions. As a result, visibility is associated with higher levels of giving, only when in scenarios where others are giving a large amount. We also observe heterogeneity in reputation concerns: Wallflower behavior is particularly strong for women and can be observed in several different settings.

Keywords: reputation, prosocial, altruism, gender, lab experiment, field experiment, charitable contribution, volunteering, social influence

JEL Classification: A13, C91, C93, D11, D64, H41

Suggested Citation

Jones, Daniel B. and Linardi, Sera, Wallflowers: Experimental Evidence of an Aversion to Standing Out (June 5, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2175211 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2175211

Daniel Jones

University of South Carolina - Darla Moore School of Business ( email )

1705 College St
Francis M. Hipp Building
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Sera Linardi (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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