When Does Altruism Trump Self-Interest? The Moderating Role of Affect in Extrinsic Incentives

Posted: 8 Nov 2013 Last revised: 27 Sep 2018

See all articles by Uzma Khan

Uzma Khan

University of Miami - Department of Marketing

Kelly Goldsmith

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

Ravi Dhar

Yale School of Management - International Center for Finance

Date Written: September 7, 2018

Abstract

Extrinsic incentives play a key role in motivating behavior. However, conflicting findings have been observed with respect to the effectiveness of various extrinsic incentives (e.g., a cash reward vs. a donation to charity) in motivation. We propose a novel framework that accounts for these inconsistencies by decomposing the total motivational efficacy of an extrinsic incentive into its cognitive assessment (i.e., the assessment of the tangible benefit to the self) and its affective assessment (i.e., the assessment of the emotional benefit associated with the incentive). By considering both cognitive and affective assessment in valuation, we reconcile several conundrums including when donation incentives that serve the greater good can be more or less motivating than monetary rewards to the self, and why incentives that are comparable in terms of their cognitive assessment can still be differentially motivating due to a difference in their affective assessment. The research thus addresses important practical questions about how to design incentives that can lead to greater societal benefit, and contributes to theories of motivation under incentives.

Keywords: motivation, prediction, incentives, lay theory, pro-social

Suggested Citation

Khan, Uzma and Goldsmith, Kelly and Dhar, Ravi, When Does Altruism Trump Self-Interest? The Moderating Role of Affect in Extrinsic Incentives (September 7, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2351359 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2351359

Uzma Khan

University of Miami - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

Kelly Goldsmith (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Ravi Dhar

Yale School of Management - International Center for Finance ( email )

Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

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