Unintentional Unfair Behavior Promotes Charitable Donation

  • Yohsuke Ohtsubo Kobe University
  • Esuka Watanabe
Keywords: costly signaling theory, charitable donation, guilt, shame, dictator game


Recent studies have demonstrated that people inflict self-punishment after unintentionally making an unfair allocation decision. The present study examined whether or not the unfair allocation decision would also prompt participants to make a charitable donation. The results indicated that participants who unintentionally made an unfair allocation decision donated a greater amount of money than those who made a fair allocation decision. In addition, the amount of money that participants donated was positively correlated with their sense of guilt (“zaiakukan” in Japanese) caused by their unfair allocation. Therefore, these results suggest that those who feel guilty (or possibly shame) due to their unintentional transgression would use charitable donation as a means to alleviate the aversive feeling.
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