Nice times

Kevin Lewis

December 31, 2017

The hidden costs of nudging: Experimental evidence from reminders in fundraising
Mette Trier Damgaard & Christina Gravert
Journal of Public Economics, January 2018, Pages 15-26

We document the hidden costs of a popular nudge and show how these costs distort policy making when neglected. In a field experiment with a charity, we find reminders increasing intended behavior (donations), but also increasing avoidance behavior (unsubscriptions from the mailing list). We develop a dynamic model of donation and unsubscription behavior with limited attention. We test the model in a second field experiment which also provides evidence that the hidden costs are anticipated. The model is estimated structurally to perform a welfare analysis. Not accounting for hidden costs overstates the welfare effects for donors by factor ten and hides potential negative welfare effects of the charity.

The dopaminergic reward system underpins gender differences in social preferences
Alexander Soutschek et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, November 2017, Pages 819–827

Women are known to have stronger prosocial preferences than men, but it remains an open question as to how these behavioural differences arise from differences in brain functioning. Here, we provide a neurobiological account for the hypothesized gender difference. In a pharmacological study and an independent neuroimaging study, we tested the hypothesis that the neural reward system encodes the value of sharing money with others more strongly in women than in men. In the pharmacological study, we reduced receptor type-specific actions of dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to reward processing, which resulted in more selfish decisions in women and more prosocial decisions in men. Converging findings from an independent neuroimaging study revealed gender-related activity in neural reward circuits during prosocial decisions. Thus, the neural reward system appears to be more sensitive to prosocial rewards in women than in men, providing a neurobiological account for why women often behave more prosocially than men.

Helping Others by First Affirming the Self: When Self-Affirmation Reduces Ego-Defensive Downplaying of Others’ Misfortunes
Sara Kim & Ann McGill
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

We show that self-affirmation increases helping behavior toward others in need. We argue that as awareness of others’ pain causes discomfort, individuals are often motivated to ignore information about such pain. However, ignoring others’ suffering implies that one is not a good and caring person, which presents a threat to self-integrity. To resolve this conflict, people might downplay others’ pain. Studies show that self-affirmation intervenes in this process, thereby increasing willingness to help (Studies 1-4). Findings further show that self-affirmation leads people to attend more closely to information about others’ difficulties (Study 2) and to construe others’ pain as a pressing need instead of an ordinary hardship (Study 3). Study 4 provides evidence supporting the ego-defensive account and rules out an alternative account based on other-directed emotions. Studies 1 to 4 also reveal that the effect of self-affirmation is more pronounced among people who are less likely to identify with victims.

Sports Sentiment and Tipping Behavior
Qi Ge
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, January 2018, Pages 95-113

This paper utilizes a high frequency dataset on taxi rides in New York City to investigate how emotions due to sporting event outcomes affect passengers’ tipping behavior. I formulate and empirically test a reference-dependent preferences framework of tipping behavior. The results indicate that the tipping amounts are driven by deviations from expectations much more so than wins and losses, with the most salient effects found under unexpected close wins. However, there is no support for loss aversion. The findings suggest that loss averse behavior may be subdued in the presence of social norms while surprises can result in freedom on the upside of tipping.

The Many Gifts of Status: How Attending to Audience Reactions Drives the Use of Status
Amanda Sharkey & Balázs Kovács
Management Science, forthcoming

The majority of extant studies involving status argue that status enters into choice and evaluation because people personally believe that status serves as a signal of quality. However, this mechanism seems less plausible in cases when consensus on the meaning of quality is lacking. To understand how and why status often nonetheless enters into evaluation in those cases, this paper contributes to a growing body of work that proposes that individuals and organizations are particularly likely to base their choices and evaluations on status when they are concerned with the reactions of others. We provide an empirical test of this argument by analyzing how the sales gap between prizewinning books and their shortlisted-only peers (as well as a second similar-content control group) changes during the December holidays, when the purchase of books as gifts increases relative to purchases for one’s own personal use. Results show that the sales gap widens with the increased orientation toward gift giving, consistent with our theoretical arguments about how attending to audience reactions drives the use of status. Analyses of two online experiments allow for further clarification of the mechanism behind our findings.

Goods Donations Increase Charitable Credit for Low-Warmth Donors
Rachel Gershon & Cynthia Cryder
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Low-warmth actors are often assumed to lack communal (or other-oriented) intentions, even when acting generously. Low-warmth donors must therefore send stronger signals of their communal intent when donating to receive the same amount of charitable credit as high-warmth donors. Because goods are linked with communal norms, we find that donating goods allows low-warmth donors to signal communal intent and increase charitable credit received. Study 1 establishes that low-warmth donors receive less credit for unspecified donations than their high-warmth counterparts. Studies 2A and 2B show that goods donations, compared to equally valued monetary or unspecified donations, increase charitable credit for low-warmth donors. Studies 3A and 3B show that donating goods boosts charitable credit for low-warmth donors in particular; high-warmth donors are assumed to have communal intentions, and receive large amounts of credit, regardless of donation type. Finally, study 4 shows that low-warmth donors can increase charitable credit for monetary donations by describing the donation in communal terms, specifically, as a gift. This research has clear practical implications, for example, many corporations are viewed as low-warmth, and most corporate donations are monetary. Yet, companies always have the option to donate goods instead.

A picture is worth a thousand words: The influence of visuospatial and verbal cognitive styles on empathy and willingness to help
Namrata Goyal et al.
Social Psychology, November/December 2017, Pages 372-379

We examined the relationship between cognitive style, empathy, and willingness to help. In Study 1 (N = 186), we measured preference for visuospatial or verbal cognitive style using the ZenQ (Zenhausern, 1978), and empathy using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1983). In Study 2 (N = 76), we experimentally elicited verbal or visual cognitive processing via priming and measured empathy in response to a vignette about a woman injured in a car accident. In both studies, we measured willingness to help by assessing participants’ willingness to assist the injured woman. Results showed that visuospatial cognitive processing increased empathy and willingness to help. Empathic concern mediated the relationship between cognitive style and willingness to help. Results highlight the importance of mental imagery in increasing empathy and helping.

How Deviations from Performance Norms Impact Charitable Donations
Alexis Allen, Meike Eilert & John Peloza
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Although the actions of others can influence a consumer's behavior, these actions are often at odds with performance norms. For example, charities can experience relatively low rates of support (resulting in a negative deviation from a performance norm) or relatively high rates of support (resulting in a positive deviation from a performance norm). Previous research provides evidence of the equivocal effects of these deviations, with both positive and negative deviations motivating prosocial behaviors. The current research reconciles these competing findings by introducing construal as a moderator. Across four studies, the authors find that positive deviations from performance norms motivate independent donors to act prosocially whereas negative deviations from performance norms motivate interdependent donors' prosocial behavior. They further show that these effects are driven by a prevention focus associated with interdependent consumers and a promotion focus associated with independent consumers. The article concludes with implications for the marketing of charities and prosocial behaviors.

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