Using social norms to explain giving behavior


Transfers of resources in dictator games vary significantly by the characteristics of recipients. We focus on social norms and demonstrate that variation in the recipient changes both giving and injunctive norms and may offer an explanation for differences in giving. We elicit generosity using dictator games, and social norms using incentivized coordination games, with two different recipient types: an anonymous student and a charitable organization. A within-subjects design ensures that other factors are held constant. Our results show that differences in giving behavior are closely related to differences in social norms of giving across contexts. Controlling for individual differences in beliefs about the norm, subjects do not weight compliance with the norms in the student recipient or charity recipient dictator game differently. These results suggest that the impact of context on giving co-occurs with an impact on social norms.

Journal article

Eckel, C. C., Hoover, H. G., Krupka, E. L., Sinha, N., & Wilson, R. K. (2023). Using social norms to explain giving behavior. Experimental Economics, 26(5), 1115–1141.

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