Social Approval, Competition and Cooperation

Document Type



peer approval; competition; coopertation

Identifier Data



Springer Link

Publication Source

Experimental Economics, 20 (2), 309-332


Non-monetary rewards are frequently used to promote pro-social behaviors, and these behaviors often result in approval from one’s peers. Nevertheless, we know little about how peer-approval, and particularly competition for peer-approval, influences people’s decisions to cooperate. This paper provides experimental evidence suggesting that people in peer-approval competitions value social approval more when it leads to unique and durable rewards. Our evidence suggests that such rewards act as a signaling mechanism, thereby contributing to the value of approval. We show that this signaling mechanism generates cooperation at least as effectively as cash rewards. Our findings point to the potential value of developing new mechanisms that rely on small non-monetary rewards to promote generosity in groups.