Doing Bad to Look Good: Negative Consequences of Image Concerns on Pro-Social Behavior

WP 1926 – September 2019

31 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2019

See all articles by Ivan Soraperra

Ivan Soraperra

University of Amsterdam - Center for Research in Experimental Economics and Political Decision-Making (CREED)

Anton Suvorov

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Jeroen van de Ven

University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

Marie Claire Villeval

Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), CNRS; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Global Labor Organization (GLO)

Date Written: September 9, 2019

Abstract

Several studies show that social image concerns stimulate pro-social behavior. We study a setting in which there is uncertainty about which action is pro-social. Then, the quest for a better social image can potentially conflict with genuinely pro-social behavior. This conflict can induce "bad" behavior, where people lower both their own and others' material payoffs to preserve a good image. This setting is relevant for various types of credence goods. For example, recommending an inexpensive treatment reduces the expert's profits and may not satisfy the true needs of the client, but is generally good for the expert's image (as it signals the lack of greed). We test experimentally if people start to act bad in order to look good. We find that people care about their social image, but social image concerns alone do not induce them to act bad. That is, without future interactions, social image concerns do not lead to bad behavior. However, with future interactions, where building up a good image has instrumental value (reputational concerns), we do find evidence of bad behavior in the short run to secure higher earnings in the long run.

Keywords: social image, credence goods, prosocial behavior, reputation, experiment

JEL Classification: C92, D82, D91

Suggested Citation

Soraperra, Ivan and Suvorov, Anton and van de Ven, Jeroen and Villeval, Marie Claire, Doing Bad to Look Good: Negative Consequences of Image Concerns on Pro-Social Behavior (September 9, 2019). WP 1926 – September 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3453103 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3453103

Ivan Soraperra (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Center for Research in Experimental Economics and Political Decision-Making (CREED) ( email )

Faculty of Economics and Econometrics
Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Anton Suvorov

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Shabolovka 26
Moscow, 119049
Russia

Jeroen Van de Ven

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Spui 21
Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA
Netherlands

Marie Claire Villeval

Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), CNRS ( email )

93, chemin des Mouilles
Ecully, 69130
France
+33 472 86 60 79 (Phone)
+33 472 86 60 90 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.gate.cnrs.fr/equipe/perso/villeval/villeval.html

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Global Labor Organization (GLO) ( email )

Collogne
Germany

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
13
Abstract Views
175
PlumX Metrics