Warm Glow Effect

Prof. Samia Hurst-Majno et Dr Emma Tieffenbach

Pure and impure philanthropy

When trying to explain why people make charitable donations, economists often hypothesize that it is because of the warm glow that the act of giving brings. The warm glow concept was first put forward by James Andreoni, a member of GCP’s Scientific Committee, in 1990 and has since been used to explain a multitude of philanthropic behaviours. Yet the concept has not been formally defined, so researchers tend to use their intuitive understanding of the phenomenon instead. But could the warm glow effect be the rational incentive behind charitable giving? And if so, how should we view the moral standing of those who donate in order to experience it?

This project received a research grant from one of the Centre’s strategic partners.


  • Empirical study on the phenomenology of warm glow, E. Tieffenbach & F. Cova