- Wed, February 23 2011
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
I’m returning today to my series on the psychology of giving. This is the tenth post on the fascinating book, The Science of Giving, which covers a range of seminal studies about giving psychology. This post looks at the work of Stephan Dickert, Namika Sagara and Paul Slovic on how donations are affected by our feelings about ourselves vs. our feelings about others.
The study in question, “Affective Motivations to Help Others: A Two-Stage Model of Donation Decisions,” involved donation decisions about sick children. The researchers wanted to see how much our feelings about ourselves and our empathy for others affected our decision to give - and secondly, how much those factors influenced the amount we gave. They sought to influence participants in different ways - like having them think about how they felt about sick children vs. having them calculate the value of the children’s lives. Here’s what they found:
1. DONOR EMOTION RULES: The single best predictor of participants’ decisions to donate anything at all was how the participants were feeling about themselves - for example, a desire to make themselves feel better or avoid regret about not donating. When they saw the pain or need of another person, they wanted to leave those negative feelings behind and make a donation. That mood was relatively unaffected by priming.
2. EMPATHY INCREASES WHEN YOU STICK TO FEELINGS, NOT FACTS: Donation amounts were affected by the degree of empathy donors felt toward the sick children. Donations were higher when participants were primed to think of their feelings. The more they were primed to think in an analytical, deliberative way, the less they gave. Feeling beat thinking in dollars.