Simple game theoretic models suggest that when costly individual action can benefit an entire group, larger groups fare worse than smaller groups because of the free-rider problem arising from “diffusion of responsibility.” Nevertheless, there are conspicuous examples of large groups in which a minority of members voluntarily supply public goods that benefit the entire group. We propose that this happens because some people get pleasure from performing a good deed, even if others would be willing and able to do it. We call such behavior let-me-do-it altruism. We perform an experiment designed to identify the presence of let-me-do-it altruism in a population. Our approach is to create a context-rich environment in which subjects reveal their preferences over group outcomes by their actions. Treatment variations provide insights into how cost and recognition impact behavior.
View the paper here: Let me, or Let George? Motives of competing altruists