Paying to Be Nice: Consistency and Costly Prosocial Behavior

Ayelet Gneezy, UC San Diego, USA
Alex Imas, UC San Diego, USA
Leif D. Nelson, UC Berkeley, USA
Amber Brown, Disney Research, USA
Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School, USA
We propose that the cost of initial prosocial behavior is crucial in predicting whether individuals’ subsequent behavior will be consistent or inconsistent with that initial behavior. When individuals engage in costly [costless] prosocial behavior, that cost serves as a signal of a prosocial identity, resulting in consistency [licensing]. The results of a laboratory experiment and a large field experiment converge to support our account.
[ to cite ]:
Ayelet Gneezy, Alex Imas, Leif D. Nelson, Amber Brown, and Michael I. Norton (2011) ,"Paying to Be Nice: Consistency and Costly Prosocial Behavior", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 39, eds. Rohini Ahluwalia, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Rebecca K. Ratner, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 468-470.