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 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 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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