Does Social Approval Stimulate Prosocial Behavior? Evidence from a Field Experiment in the Residential Electricity Market

Publication Date:
Jan 2011
Project Programs:
Behavioral Economics

At least since Veblen (1899), economists have proposed that people do good because they desire "social approval" and want to look good in front of others. Evidence from the laboratory supports this claim, but is difficult to generalize due to the unrealistic degree of scrutiny in a laboratory environment. I administer a field experiment to test the potency of social approval in a realistic and policy relevant setting. In the experiment I solicit 7,893 customers of a large electric utility for a program that helps prevent blackouts.


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