Social and Material Concerns in Paying It Forward: People Are Selfish, But Only in Secret

Adrian F. Ward, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School, USA
Kurt Gray, University of North Carolina, USA
We explore the effects of two often-competing incentives—material gain and social reputation—on paying-it-forward in real-world networks. People asymmetrically pay forward negative outcomes, but only when behavior is anonymous and their gains are directly tied to others’ losses. Even minimal social cues lead people to forsake greed for generosity.
[ to cite ]:
Adrian F. Ward, Michael I. Norton, and Kurt Gray (2015) ,"Social and Material Concerns in Paying It Forward: People Are Selfish, But Only in Secret", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 43, eds. Kristin Diehl and Carolyn Yoon, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 270-271.