Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Pride

Luigi Butera, Robert Metcalfe, William Morrison, Dmitry Taubinsky

Research output: Working paperResearch


Public recognition is a frequent tool for motivating desirable behavior, yet its welfare effects are rarely measured. We develop a portable money-metric approach for measuring the direct welfare effects of shame and pride, which we deploy in a series of experiments on exercise and charitable behavior. In all experiments, public recognition motivates desirable behavior but creates highly unequal emotional consequences. High-performing individuals enjoy significant utility gains from pride, while low-performing individuals incur significant utility losses from shame. We estimate structural models of social signaling, and we use the models to explore the social efficiency of public recognition policies.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge, MA
PublisherNational Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Number of pages96
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
SeriesNational Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper Series

Bibliographical note

Revised August 2020. Previous version published under the title: "The Deadweight Loss of Social Recognition".

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