Altruism Begets Altruism

35 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2022

See all articles by Stephanie Heger

Stephanie Heger

University of Bologna

Robert Slonim

University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

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We design an experiment to ask whether morally-motivated behavior, e.g., charitable giving, is history-dependent. Using a popular policy nudge, the default option, we exogenously vary altruism “now” and show that giving “now” causes a 66%- 200% increase in the probability of giving “later”; that is, altruism begets altruism. We further show that, consistent with psychological theory, the choice to behave altruistically “now”, rather than the nudge itself, is the crucial element in the causal relationship. These findings are consistent with a model of positive path-dependence, which we interpret as moral consistency.

Keywords: altruism, Nudge, path-dependence, moral consistency

Suggested Citation

Heger, Stephanie and Slonim, Robert, Altruism Begets Altruism. Available at SSRN: or

Stephanie Heger (Contact Author)

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 2
Bologna, 40100

Robert Slonim

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ( email )

15 Broadway, Ultimo
PO Box 123
Sydney, NSW 2007

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