Social rewards in the volunteer’s dilemma in everyday life


In everyday life, we often face a “volunteer’s dilemma (VoD)”—a group situation in which one member has to incur the cost of providing a public good. In the VoD, members of a group may wait for each other to volunteer, and thus, the group may fail to achieve the public good. Previous research has examined the probability of this failure and found that it was lower than theoretically expected. This discrepancy may have been because only material (e.g., money) and not social rewards (e.g., favourable evaluations) were considered in the theoretical expectations. To investigate whether and how people gain social rewards or are evaluated favourably by others in the VoD in everyday life (specifically in workplace contexts), we conducted a scenario‐based experiment (N = 582). The results showed that people were evaluated as more moral and competent when they volunteered than when they did not. Furthermore, this was the case especially when all the other group members shirked and when the evaluator was also willing to volunteer. These findings contribute to our current understanding of the way people perceive volunteers and shirkers in the VoD. They also have an implication on people’s motivation to incur a cost for their group in such a situation.

Asian Journal of Social Psychology (in press)