The Braggart's Dilemma: On the Social Rewards and Penalties of Advertising Prosocial Behavior Journal Article uri icon



  • People often brag about, or advertise, their good deeds to others. Seven studies investigate how bragging about prosocial behavior affects perceived generosity. The authors propose that bragging conveys information about an actor's good deeds, leading to an attribution of generosity. However, bragging also signals a selfish motivation (a desire for credit) that undermines the attribution of generosity. Thus, bragging has a positive effect when prosocial behavior is unknown because it informs others that an actor has behaved generously. However, bragging does not help—and often hurts—when prosocial behavior is already known, because it signals a selfish motive. In addition, the authors demonstrate that conspicuous cause marketing products have effects akin to bragging by signaling an impure motive for doing good deeds. Finally, the authors argue that bragging about prosocial behavior is unique because it undermines the precise information that the braggart is trying to convey (generosity). In contrast, bragging about personal achievements does not affect perceptions of the focal trait conveyed in the brag. These findings underscore the strategic considerations inherent in signaling altruism.

publication date

  • February 1, 2015

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • January 7, 2023 8:41 AM

Full Author List

  • Berman JZ; Levine EE; Barasch A; Small DA

author count

  • 4

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-2437

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1547-7193

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 90

end page

  • 104


  • 52


  • 1