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Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Working Papers
Doing good or doing well? Image motivation and monetary incentives in behaving prosocially
Dan Ariely
Anat Bracha
Stephan Meier

This paper examines image motivation—the desire to be liked and well-regarded by others— as a driver in prosocial behavior (doing good), and asks whether extrinsic monetary incentives (doing well) have a detrimental effect on prosocial behavior due to crowding out of image motivation. ; By definition, image depends on one’s behavior being visible to other people. Using this unique property we show that image is indeed an important part of the motivation to behave prosocially. Moreover, we show that extrinsic incentives interact with image motivation and are therefore less effective in public than in private. Together, these results imply that image motivation is crowded out by monetary incentives; this means that monetary incentives are more likely to be counterproductive for public prosocial activities than for private ones.

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Dan Ariely & Anat Bracha & Stephan Meier, Doing good or doing well? Image motivation and monetary incentives in behaving prosocially, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Working Papers 07-9, 2007.
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Keywords: Human behavior
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