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Beliefs-based altruism as an alternative explanation for social signaling behaviors

Vera L. te Velde

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2018, vol. 152, issue C, 177-191

Abstract: Social preferences researchers have firmly established the importance of social image to prosocial behavior. Yet an alternative explanation for many such findings has been almost wholly ignored. Instead of, or in addition to, being motivated by maintaining others’ good opinion of me, I may be motivated to maintain others’ good feelings about how they have been treated. For example, I may give more to a stranger when we meet face to face because they will feel worse being denied in that context than if I denied them anonymously. In an experiment, I find that a substantial fraction of the population does believe that others have beliefs-based utility, and that these beliefs are additionally strongly linked to actual choices in an setting designed to identify BBA by forcing a trade-off between standard outcome-based altruism and beliefs-based altruism. This link establishes the importance of BBA for a large fraction of the population whose actions may be partially misattributed to social signaling.

Keywords: Social image; Social signaling; Altruism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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