SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance
Anticipated verbal feedback induces altruistic behavior
() and Magnus Johannesson
Abstract: A distinctive feature of humans compared to other species
is the high rate of cooperation with non-kin. One explanation is that
humans are motivated by concerns for social esteem. In this paper we
experimentally investigate the impact of anticipated verbal feedback on
altruistic behavior. We study pairwise interactions in which one subject,
the “divider”, decides how to split a sum of money between herself and a
recipient. Thereafter, the recipient can send an unrestricted anonymous
message to the divider. The subjects’ relationship is anonymous and
one-shot to rule out any reputation effects. Compared to a control
treatment without feedback messages, donations increase substantially when
recipients can communicate. With verbal feedback, the fraction of zero
donations decreases from about 40% to about 20%, and there is a
corresponding increase in the fraction of equal splits from about 30% to
about 50%. Recipients who receive no money almost always express
disapproval of the divider, sometimes strongly and in foul language.
Following an equal split, almost all recipients praise the divider. The
results suggest that anticipated verbal rewards and punishments play a role
in promoting altruistic behavior among humans.
Keywords: Punishment; Approval; Disapproval; Dictator game; Altruism; Communication; Verbal feedback; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: C91; D64; (follow links to similar papers)
25 pages, June 21, 2007
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