"What's behind image: towards a better understanding of image-driven behavior"

Tobias Regner

Our experimental design systematically varies image concerns in a dictator/trust game. In comparison to the baseline, we either decrease the role of self-image concerns (by providing an excuse for selfish behavior) or increase the role of social-image concerns (by conveying the transfer choice to a third person). In this set up, we analyze the underlying processes that motivate subjects to give less/more. Controlling for distributional preferences and expectations, our results indicate that moral emotions (guilt and shame) are a significant determinant of pro-social behavior. The disposition to guilt explains giving in the baseline, while it does not when an excuse for selfish behavior exists. Subjects’ disposition to shame is correlated to giving when their choice is public and they can be identified.

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