The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Altruism in Experiments

  • James Andreoni
  • William T. Harbaugh
  • Lise Vesterlund
Reference work entry


We call an act altruistic when it is a sacrifice that benefits others. We discuss how experiments have demonstrated that altruistic choices appear to follow the same regularity conditions as those assumed for private goods. In particular they vary rationally in response to changes in prices and circumstances. We show how experiments have distinguished between different economic models of how concern for others enters utility functions, and have explored the implications of those models for charitable giving, labour markets, and trust. We also discuss the experimental evidence for differences in altruism by gender, and work on altruism’s cultural, developmental, and neural foundations.


Altruism Altruism in experiments Centipede game Cooperation Crowding out Dictator game Efficiency wages Experiments Gift exchange Moral hazard game Prisoner’s Dilemma Public goods games Rawls, J. Reciprocity Repeated games Reputation Revealed preference Trust game Ulterior motives Ultimatum game Utilitarianism Warm-glow 

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Andreoni
    • 1
  • William T. Harbaugh
    • 1
  • Lise Vesterlund
    • 1
  1. 1.