Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Pride

Luigi Butera, Robert Metcalfe, William Morrison, Dmitry Taubinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Public recognition is frequently used to motivate desirable behavior, yet its welfare effects—such as costs of shame or gains from pride— are rarely measured. We develop a portable empirical methodology for measuring and monetizing social image utility, and we deploy it in experiments on exercise and charitable behavior. In all experiments, public recognition motivates desirable behavior but creates highly unequal image payoffs. High-performing individuals enjoy significant utility gains, while low-performing individuals incur significant utility losses. We estimate structural models of social signaling, and we use the models to explore the social efficiency of public recognition policies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Economic Review
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)122-168
Number of pages47
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Alternative title: Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Prides.

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