On Being the Tipping Point: Social Threshold Incentives Motivate Behavior

52 Pages Posted: 9 May 2019

See all articles by Lalin Anik

Lalin Anik

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: April 11, 2019

Abstract

We document the impact of making a consumer the tipping point whose behavior causes some aggregate behavior to tip over a social threshold: “We are at 74% participation and your action will get us to our target of 75%.” In particular, we examine when being the tipping point increases the impact of all others who have already engaged in the target behavior: “Hitting 75% will trigger additional incentives for you and the 74% who acted before you.” In Study 1, consumers were more likely to agree to get a blood screening when they were the tipping point who caused an incentive (charitable donations) to exceed a threshold that triggered a matching donation. We posit that acting to become a tipping point is driven by the desire to benefit others who have already engaged in that action: Study 2 shows that triggering incentives for the self and others by being the tipping point can be more effective in changing behavior than equivalent-in-value incentives for the self, while Studies 3A-3B demonstrate that sense of impact on and obligation towards others who have engaged in the behavior drive consumers’ increased likelihood of action near social thresholds. Thus extending previous research demonstrating that donors can be motivated by perceived impact on charitable recipients, we document that donors can also motivated by their perceived impact on actors who have engaged in the same behavior: their fellow donors. Finally, Study 4 demonstrates our mechanism via moderation, showing that highlighting – via visual information – precisely how an action benefits fellow actors increases the effectiveness of threshold incentives.

Keywords: tipping point, incentives, motivation, prosocial behavior, charitable giving, guilt

Suggested Citation

Anik, Lalin and Norton, Michael I., On Being the Tipping Point: Social Threshold Incentives Motivate Behavior (April 11, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3370498 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3370498

Lalin Anik (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-243-7697 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty-research/directory/lalin-anik/

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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