Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published July 2015 | Supplemental Material + Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

Impure altruism and impure selfishness

Saito, Kota ORCID icon


Altruism refers to a willingness to benefit others, even at one's own expense. In contrast, selfishness refers to prioritizing one's own interests with no consideration for others. However, even if an agent is selfish, he might nevertheless act as if he were altruistic out of selfish concerns triggered when his action is observed; that is, he might seek to feel pride in acting altruistically and to avoid the shame of acting selfishly. We call such behavior impurely altruistic. Alternatively, even if an agent is altruistic, he might nevertheless give in to the temptation to act selfishly. We call such behavior impurely selfish. This paper axiomatizes a model that distinguishes altruism from impure altruism and selfishness from impure selfishness. In the model, unique real numbers separately capture altruism and the other forces of pride, shame, and the temptation to act selfishly. We show that the model can describe recent experiments on dictator games with an exit option. In addition, we describe an empirical puzzle that government spending only partially crowds out consumers' donations, contrary to the prediction based on standard consumer theory.

Additional Information

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. Received2 July 2014; final version received3 May 2015; accepted4 May 2015; Available online 12 May 2015. This paper is a revised version of "Role Conflict and Choice" (2011), which no longer exists as a separate paper. I am indebted to my adviser, Eddie Dekel, for continuous guidance, support, and encouragement. I would like to thank David Dillenberger, Ozgur Evren, Stefania Minardi, and Philipp Sadowski for discussion and comments that have led to the improvement of the paper. I am very grateful to referees and editors of this journal who gave me very helpful comments and advice. I would also like to thank Federico Echenique, Pietro Ortoleva, Leeat Yariv, and Chris Shannon for their comments. Iam also grateful to James Andreoni, Pierpaolo Battigalli, Colin Camerer, Mark Dean, Jeff Ely, Ernst Fehr, Takashi Hayashi, Michihiro Kandori, Edi Karni, Peter Klibanoff, Barton Lipman, Yusufcan Masatlioglu, Jawwad Noor, Efe Ok, Tom Palfrey, Wolfgang Pesendorfer, David Pearce, Andrew Postlewaite, Matthew Rabin, Joel Sobel, Marciano Siniscalchi, Simon Wilkie, and seminar participants at the Brown University Spring Conference 2011, California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, University of Texas Austin, University of California San Diego, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Hitotsubashi University, the University of Tokyo, the Johns Hopkins University, and RUD 2012 at Northwestern University. I gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Center for Economic Theory of the Economics Department of Northwestern University.

Attached Files

Accepted Version - revision_jet7.pdf

Supplemental Material - mmc1.pdf


Files (534.8 kB)
Name Size Download all
453.4 kB Preview Download
81.4 kB Preview Download

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 23, 2023