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The Anticipatory Effect of Nonverbal Communication on Generosity

Brook, Rebecca and Servátka, Maroš (2015): The Anticipatory Effect of Nonverbal Communication on Generosity.

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Abstract

Is nonverbal communication capable of affecting economic outcomes? We study the effect of anticipated approval and disapproval, expressed through emoticons, on generosity and show that it discourages selfish behavior. In our experiment subjects play a one-shot dictator game at the end of which the recipient can respond to the allocation by drawing an emoticon and sending it back to the dictator. While the observed effect of nonverbal communication is somewhat weaker than the anticipation of a verbal response, our results provide evidence that people are willing to trade-off pecuniary gains to avoid disapproval or seek approval of their peers and that the sheer anticipation of receiving a response, even nonverbal, is sufficient to change their behavior.

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