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Warm-glow effects and warm-glow explanations : does the warm glow from giving provide an answer to the question of why people give ?

Number of pages117
Defense date2022-01-25

Recently a growing body of literature on the pleasure of giving – also known as 'warm glow feeling' – has emerged in both economics and psychology. As a result, the hypothesis that people may derive a 'warm glow' from their altruistic gift has been construed both as the underlying motive of the generous action of gifting and as a positive side-effect of one's charitable behavior. In this paper, I address two related issues. I first deal with the nature of 'warm-glow effects', that is the nature of the affective states referred to as 'warm glow' that are associated with giving, and then I explore in depth the warm-glow explanation of giving, henceforth ‘warm glow hypothesis'. One of the idea that lies at the core of the warm glow hypothesis is to explain why donors care to make donations despite the personal financial cost involved in the act by appealing to what they experience when they give, that is an emotional benefit, a reward, or to put it more simply, a warm glow. Accordingly, the main purpose of this work is to argue that one cannot simply pass from the observation of warm-glow effects of giving to a warm-glow explanation of why people give without further assumptions regarding the motivations underlying generous actions. This involves both a clarification of the nature of these explanations – as they can, in principle, be deployed to account for any type of prosocial behavior – and an examination of the main arguments given against them. The conclusion I will be inching towards has two parts. First, I argue that a decisive argument to the conclusion that ‘internal reward explanations' are conceptually incoherent is yet to be provided. And second, I contend that even if the warm glow hypothesis turned out to be true – a possibility, which I argue, is worth exploring – it would not warrant the conclusion that all prosocial actions, and in particular charitable donations, are the result of narrow self-interest – by which I mean that it would not follow that people are motivated to help others only by considerations bearing on their own interest.

  • Psychological Egoism
  • Psychological Hedonism
  • Altruism
  • Warm glow
  • Butler's Stone
  • Internal rewards
  • Sidgwick
  • Paradox of hedonism
  • Giving
  • Prosocial action
  • Motivation
Citation (ISO format)
BIANCHI, Robin Timothée. Warm-glow effects and warm-glow explanations : does the warm glow from giving provide an answer to the question of why people give ? 2022.
Main files (1)
Master thesis
  • PID : unige:158924

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