The Differential Effect of Narratives on Prosocial Behavior

56 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2018 Last revised: 10 Jun 2020

See all articles by Adrian Hillenbrand

Adrian Hillenbrand

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Eugenio Verrina

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

We study how positive narratives (stories in favor of a prosocial action) and negative narratives (stories in favor of a selfish action) influence prosocial behavior. Our main findings are that positive
narratives increase giving of selfish types substantially, compared to a baseline with no narratives. Negative narratives, on the other hand, have a differential effect. Prosocial types decrease their giving, while selfish types give more than in the baseline. We argue and provide evidence in favor of the following interpretation of our results: narratives offer a benchmark for social comparison, on top of influencing perceptions of deservingness and appropriateness. Subjects are swayed by narratives and, at the same time, they compare themselves with the narrator.

Keywords: Prosocial behavior, narratives, social comparison, dictator game, SVO

JEL Classification: C91, D63, D64, D83, D91

Suggested Citation

Hillenbrand, Adrian and Verrina, Eugenio, The Differential Effect of Narratives on Prosocial Behavior (June 2020). MPI Collective Goods Discussion Paper, No. 2018/16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3303744 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3303744

Adrian Hillenbrand (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
D-53113 Bonn, 53113
Germany

Eugenio Verrina

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences ( email )

Mittelweg 187
69120 Heidelberg, 53113
Germany

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