Warm-glow giving

Warm-glow giving is an economic phenomenon described by James Andreoni in 1989 that attempts to explain why people give to charity by proposing that people engage in impure altruism.[1][2] Instead of being motivated solely by an interest in the welfare of the recipients of their largess, "warm-glow givers" also receive utility from the act of giving. This utility is in the form of warm glow—the positive emotional feeling people get from helping others.

Competing motives for charitable giving include pure altruism—in which there is no internal or external reward for giving or helping people, as well as the egoistic motivation for donating. Egoistic motivation may come from the boost to self-esteem that people get from thinking of themselves as selfless and socially responsible, and/or from other people's recognition of their philanthropy.[3]

Further research has demonstrated that the reward centers of the brain activate in response to charitable giving and helping others, suggesting physiological evidence for the warm-glow phenomenon.[4]

Moral philosopher Peter Singer mentions warm-glow givers in his 2015 novel, The Most Good You Can Do. Singer states that these types of donors "give small amounts to many charities [and] are not so interested in whether what they are doing helps others." He references "empathetic concern" and "personal distress" as two distinct components of warm-glow givers, or emotional altruists as compared with effective altruists.[5]

See also


  1. Andreoni, James (1990). "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving". Economic Journal. 100 (401): 464–477. JSTOR 2234133.
  2. Andreoni, James (1989). "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence". Journal of Political Economy. 97 (6): 1447–1458. doi:10.1086/261662.
  3. Leonhardt, David (March 9, 2008). "What Makes People Give?". The New York Times Magazine.
  4. Harbaugh, W; Mayr, U; Burghart, D (2007). "Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations". Science. 316 (5831): 1622–1625. doi:10.1126/science.1140738.
  5. Singer, Peter (2015). The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 5, 6, 77–80, 90.

Further reading

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