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. 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.
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.
Moral philosopher Peter Singer mentions warm-glow givers in his 2015 book, 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.
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- 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.
- Diamond, Peter; Vartiainen, Hannu (2012). "Models Involving ‘Warm Glow’". Behavioral Economics and Its Applications. Princeton University Press. pp. 62–65. ISBN 978-1-4008-2914-9.
- Andreoni, James (2006). "Philanthropy". In Kolm, Serge-Christophe; Ythier, Jean Mercier. Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity: Applications. Elsevier. pp. 1202–1223. ISBN 0-444-52145-3.