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What's the Right Thing to Do? Increasing Pro-Sociality with Simple Moral Nudges

31 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2017  

Valerio Capraro

Middlesex University

Glorianna Jagfeld

University of Stuttgart

Rana Klein

University of Amsterdam

Mathijs Mul

University of Amsterdam

Iris van de Pol

University of Amsterdam

Date Written: November 2, 2017

Abstract

The conflict between pro-self and pro-social behaviour is at the core of many key problems of our time, as, for example, the reduction of air pollution and the redistribution of scarce resources. For the well-being of our societies, it is thus crucial to find mechanisms to promote pro-social choices over egoistic ones. Particularly important, because cheap and easy to implement, are those mechanisms that can change people’s behaviour without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives, the so-called “nudges”. Previous research has found that moral nudges (e.g., making social norms salient) can promote pro-social behaviour. However, little is known about whether their effect persists over time and spills across context. This question is key in light of research showing that prosocial actions are often followed by antisocial actions, thus suggesting that some moral manipulations may backfire. Here we present a class of simple moral nudges that have a great positive impact on pro-sociality. In Studies 1-4, we use economic games to demonstrate that asking subjects to tell “what they think is the morally right thing to do” does not only increase pro-sociality in the choice immediately after, but also in subsequent choices, and even when the social context changes. In Studies 5-7, we demonstrate the external validity of our mechanism: we show that moral nudges increase charity donations by about 44%. In doing so, our results show that simple moral nudges can successfully be used to increase pro-social behaviour both inside the laboratory and in the real world.

Keywords: cooperation, altruism, nudges, behavioral economics, charity donations

JEL Classification: C70, C71, C72, C90, C91, C92, C93, D01, D03, D63, D64, D70, D71, H40, H41

Suggested Citation

Capraro, Valerio and Jagfeld, Glorianna and Klein, Rana and Mul, Mathijs and van de Pol, Iris, What's the Right Thing to Do? Increasing Pro-Sociality with Simple Moral Nudges (November 2, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3064004

Valerio Capraro (Contact Author)

Middlesex University ( email )

The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT
United Kingdom

Glorianna Jagfeld

University of Stuttgart ( email )

Keplerstraße 17
D-70174 Stuttgart
Germany

Rana Klein

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Mathijs Mul

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Iris Van de Pol

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

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