December 2019

IZA DP No. 12869: Ambiguity and Excuse-Driven Behavior in Charitable Giving

Thomas Garcia, Sebastien Massoni, Marie Claire Villeval

revised version published in: European Economic Review, 2020,124, 103412

A donation may have ambiguous costs or ambiguous benefits. Behavior in a laboratory experiment suggests that individuals use this ambiguity strategically as a moral wiggle room to act less generously without feeling guilty. Such excuse-driven behavior is more pronounced when the costs of a donation – rather than its benefits – are ambiguous. However, the importance of excuse-driven behavior is comparable under ambiguity and under risk. Individuals exploit any type of uncertainty as an excuse not to give, regardless of the nature of this uncertainty.