NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Self-Signaling and Prosocial Behavior: a Cause Marketing Mobile Field Experiment

Jean-Pierre Dubé, Xueming Luo, Zheng Fang

NBER Working Paper No. 21475
Issued in August 2015
NBER Program(s):The Industrial Organization Program

We empirically test an information economics based theory of social preferences in which ego utility and self-signaling can potentially crowd out the effect of consumption utility on choices. Two large-scale, randomized controlled field experiments involving a consumer good and charitable donations are conducted using a subject pool of actual consumers. We find that bundling relatively large charitable donations with a consumer good can generate non-monotonic regions of demand. Consumers also self-report significantly lower ratings of “feeling good about themselves” when a large donation is bundled with a large price discount for the good. The combined evidence supports the self-signaling theory whereby price discounts crowd out a consumer’s self-inference of altruism from buying a good bundled with a charitable donation. Alternative theories of motivation crowding are unable to fit the non-monotonic moments in the data. A structural model of self-signaling is fit to the data to quantify the economic magnitude of ego utility and its role in driving consumer decisions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21475

Published: Self-Signaling and Prosocial Behavior: A Cause Marketing Experiment Jean-Pierre Dubé, Xueming Luo, and Zheng Fang Marketing Science 201736:2 , 161-186

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