Theory and Decision

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 47–67 | Cite as

An experimental investigation of intrinsic motivations for giving

  • Mirco Tonin
  • Michael VlassopoulosEmail author


This paper presents results from a modified dictator experiment aimed at distinguishing and quantifying intrinsic motivations for giving. We employ an experimental design with three treatments that vary the recipient (experimenter, charity) and amount passed (fixed, varying). We find giving to the experimenter not to be significantly different from giving to a charity, when the amount the subject donates crowds out the amount donated by the experimenter such that the charity always receives a fixed amount. This result suggests that the latter treatment, first used by Crumpler and Grossman (J Public Econ 92(5–6):1011–1021, 2008), does not provide a clean test of warm glow motivation. We then propose a new method of detecting warm glow motivation based on the idea that in a random-lottery incentive (RLI) scheme, such as the one we employ, warm glow accumulates and this may lead to satiation, whereas purely altruistic motivation does not. We also provide bounds on the magnitudes of warm glow and pure altruism as motives that drive giving in our experiment.


Dictator game Warm glow Pure altruism Charitable giving  Random Lottery Incentive Scheme 

JEL Classification

C91 D03 D64 



We thank Tore Ellingsen, David Gill, Victoria Prowse, David Reinstein, and Thierry Verdier for their useful comments and discussions. We are grateful to Juan Correa Allamand for excellent research assistance. This study was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number RES-061-25-0461] and by the British Academy through a Small Research Grant.

Supplementary material

11238_2013_9360_MOESM1_ESM.rtf (34 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (rtf 34 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economics Division, School of Social SciencesUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Central European UniversityBudapestHungary
  3. 3.IZABonnGermany

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