Sign Me Up! A Model and Field Experiment on Volunteering

51 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2014 Last revised: 22 Jul 2018

See all articles by Erte Xiao

Erte Xiao

Monash University

Daniel Houser

George Mason University - Department of Economics; Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 12, 2018

Abstract

Building on theoretical and empirical literatures showing that choices not only reflect but also create preferences, we develop a two-stage incentivized intervention to promote pro-sociality. In the first stage, participants are incentivized to complete a compound task consisting of a targeted pro-social activity and a complement activity. In the second stage, participants are incentivized to complete repeatedly only the complement activity. The model predicts that, conditional on compliance with the first-stage compound task, intrinsic interest in the target activity is promoted regardless of compliance with the second-stage task. We refer to this as a “failsafe” mechanism. We design and implement a field experiment to test the performance of the failsafe mechanism in promoting volunteerism in relation to alternatives approaches where the second-stage task involves the target task--volunteering. We find the failsafe mechanism to promote interest in volunteering significantly better than the alternatives.

Keywords: volunteering; incentives; pro-social attitudes; cognitive dissonance; field experiment

JEL Classification: C93; D02; D03; D04; D64; H41; Z13

Suggested Citation

Xiao, Erte and Houser, Daniel, Sign Me Up! A Model and Field Experiment on Volunteering (July 12, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2378038 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2378038

Erte Xiao (Contact Author)

Monash University ( email )

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Daniel Houser

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~dhouser/

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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