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Three Essays on Pro-social Behavior
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In this dissertation, I study individuals’ prosocial behaviors. I focus on the topics of charitable giving, measuring altruism, and trust. The first essay studies the effectiveness of fundraising campaigns with volunteer leaders in charitable giving. We ask: 1) Does having volunteer leaders increase contributions from potential donors?, and 2) What factors increase or decrease the impact of volunteer leaders on charitable giving? We find that the effectiveness of leadership depends on the specific context. Volunteers are generally more effective in increasing follower donations, but themselves give less than randomly-selected leaders. Social distance of the leader has little effect on fundraising. The second essay is directly related to altruism, the altruistic motivation for charitable giving. Altruism has been measured in the lab using dictator games, where some scholars use only one decision and others use multiple decisions. The latter has gained remarkable popularity in identifying heterogeneous distributional preferences among populations and found the prevailing existence of preferences for efficiency relative to preferences for equality. We examine the effect of playing both roles in the dictator games with multiple decisions. We ask: 1) Does playing both roles change behavior?, and 2) If so, should we rethink the measure of distributional preferences? We find that dual role procedure distorts revealed preferences. Dual role procedure leads to greater price sensitivity, and overestimates preferences for efficiency and underestimates preferences for equality. We also find evidences that only single role measurement predicts real life giving. In the third essay we ask: 1) Does altruism explain individual trust and trustworthy behavior?, and 2) Are trust and trustworthiness norms? We find that altruism predicts trust, while both fairness and trust predict trustworthiness. Trust and trustworthiness could be explained by following norms. Our results suggest the presence of norms that elicit trusting and trustworthy behavior.
Zhan, Wei (2017). Three Essays on Pro-social Behavior. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from