Let me, or Let George? Motives of Competing Altruists (GEB, 2019)


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