Working Paper

Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Tell Me Who to Follow!: Field Experiment Evidence on Voluntary Donations

Jun 18, 2010 | Francisco Alpízar, Peter Martinsson

This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .


We conducted a field experiment in a protected area to explore the effects of conformity to a social reference versus a comparable, but imposed, suggested donation. As observed before, we see visitors conforming to the changing social reference. On the other hand, the treatment in which we suggested a donation resulted in lower shares of visitors donating, compared to the social reference treatment, and lower conditional donations even compared to the control. We concluded that visitors look at their peers as a reference to conform to, but partially reject being confronted with an imposed suggestion on how to behave.