It's not you (well, it is a bit you), it's me: self- versus social image in warm-glow giving

Philip J. Grossman, Jonathan Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Attempts by charities to motivate giving tend to focus on potential donors' altruistic tendencies. However, prior research suggests that approximately 50% of individuals are to some extent motivated by warm glow, the satisfaction received from the act of giving. The satisfaction derives from looking good to themselves (self-image) and/or to others (social image). We conduct an online experiment on MTurk participants (n = 960) with a more realistic simulation of being watched to determine the importance of self- and social image to warm-glow giving. We find evidence that suggests that social image concerns do not increase the likelihood that someone will give but they do increase the amount given; average giving is significantly higher in the treatments when feelings of being watched are stimulated. Our results suggest that charities looking to increase their donor bases might effectively do so by focusing on self-image concerns. Charities wishing to increase the amount donated might effectively do so by focusing on the social image concerns of the donor.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0300868
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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