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Decreased Prosociality in Restaurants Following Mass Shootings in America

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  • Decreased Prosociality in Restaurants Following Mass Shootings in America
    Decreased Prosociality in Restaurants Following Mass Shootings in
    Lamar Pierce1
    Washington University in St. Louis

    Daniel Snow
    Brigham Young University

    Andrew McAfee
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    June 8, 2016
    Abstract (175 words): Mass shootings are frequent tragedies in the United States. The direct
    impact of such tragedies to victims and bystanders through death, injury, and trauma is clear,
    yet existing research suggests that they can produce more widespread changes to human
    behavior. This paper provides the first large-scale field test of potential changes in prosocial
    behavior by customers and employees in firms following mass shootings. Using two years of
    transaction data from 1152 restaurants in 46 states, we show subtle decreases in local tipping
    directly following nine mass shootings that collectively reduce wages by millions of dollars.
    Geographically distant restaurants suffer smaller decreases, but local effects extend 250
    miles. The largest tip decrease appears after the deadliest shooting?Sandy Hook
    Elementary. Furthermore, tipping returns to pre-tragedy levels after one week. We present
    evidence that these tipping decreases are more likely a function of changes in consumer
    generosity than reduced customer service. Although we cannot isolate the mechanism
    behind these results, they are consistent with changes in customer affect shown in previous
    research to result from violent tragedy.
    Keywords: Violence, prosocial behavior, tragedy, generosity, retail, tipping
    Society in general becomes more 'tribal.'

    Fehr and Hoff (2011) note that the increased prosociality after conflict
    and violence found in the existing empirical literature is almost always directed toward in-group
    members after experiencing out-group violence, suggesting that observed increases may result from
    psychological mechanisms of strengthened group identity and favoritism (Choi and Bowles 2007).
    Consequently, prosociality increases found in experimental and social settings might not apply in
    retail and service contexts where the majority of interactions are between strangers.

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