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Graphs show average donations (/prospective donations from raffle winnings) in each study as a function of efficiency/effectiveness and an image of an identified victim. Error bars represent 95% CIs.

Graphs show average donations (/prospective donations from raffle winnings) in each study as a function of efficiency/effectiveness and an image of an identified victim. Error bars represent 95% CIs.

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Article
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Helping behaviors are often driven by emotional reactions to the suffering of particular individuals, but these behaviors do not seem to be upregulated when many people need help. In this article, we consider if these reactions are also “innumerate” to information about how charities spend their money. Across six experiments, we examined how images...

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Context 1
... meta-analysis included positive efficiency/effectiveness only (as we only had negative information in two studies), and in study 4 we used the average effect of early and late presentation. This analysis indicated a robust effect of the image manipulation, but no reliable influence of efficiency/effectiveness, and no significant interaction between these factors (see Figure 1 and right-hand column in Table 1). ...
Context 2
... particular, information about efficiency/effectiveness suppressed amounts given compared to the image alone. There were similar but insignificant effects in Study 1 and 4 (see Figure 1) and this interaction was significant in the meta-analysis (although this should be interpreted with caution, see discussion). Efficiency /Effectiveness (+) OR mean = 0.86 [0.73, 1.03] .09 ...
Context 3
... variation aside, the identified victim images had a substantial effect on total donation amounts -money that was not earmarked for the identified victim. In fact, those who were exposed to an identified victim often donated roughly 25% more than those who were not (see Figure 1). Thus, unless one can demonstrate alternative means to generate the same donation amounts, or show that donations raised without emotional appeals still do more good with a smaller revenue, it would seem counter-productive (not to say irrational) to discourage empathic giving (Bloom, 2016). ...

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Citations

... The key questions appeared interspersed with irrelevant items about the impression of the beneficiaries, donation reasons, personal interest, and activity suggestions, among others. Finally, participants were asked to evaluate the contents of the acknowledgment (the same as the pretest); the type (positive or negative) (two items, a = 0.92) of the acknowledgment (seven-point scale, 1 = "does not agree at all, " 7 = "agree completely, " "please report your liking of the acknowledgment, " "please report your anger toward the charitable organization") (Erlandsson et al., 2018); the type (intuitive or rational) (two items, a = 0.96) of the acknowledgment (seven-point scale, 1 = "does not agree at all, " 7 = "agree completely, " "the acknowledgment mainly triggers intuitive feelings, such as empathy, " "the acknowledgment mainly triggers rational reactions, such as the thinking of efficiency and effectiveness of charity") (Bergh and Reinstein, 2020); and to guess the purpose of this survey. After completing all the experiments, the researcher informed the participants of the actual purpose of study 1 and refunded all donations. ...
... . /fpsyg. . Finally, participants were asked to evaluate the contents of the acknowledgment; the type (positive or negative) (two items, a = 0.92) of the acknowledgment (Erlandsson et al., 2018); the type (intuitive or rational) (two items, a = 0.96) of the acknowledgment (Bergh and Reinstein, 2020); and to guess the purpose of this survey. After completing all the experiments, the researcher informed the participants of the actual purpose of study 4 and refunded all donations. ...
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... Given prior research on charitable giving (e.g., Lindauer et al. 2020), we were somewhat surprised to see no detectable difference between the argument and control conditions. It is also somewhat surprising that there was no significant difference between the narrative and narrative-plusargument conditions, in light of prior studies on charitable giving that have reported interesting results from mixing conditions (e.g., Small et al. 2007;Erlandsson et al. 2016;Bergh & Reinstein 2021). However, this initial study did not include a measure of actual donation behavior. ...
... Adding a photo of the actual beneficiaries of charitable givingthe real-life protagonists of the narrativeshad no detectable effect on attitude or donation. This null result was surprising given prior research reporting that photos of beneficiaries can increase charitable donations (e.g.,Bergh & Reinstein 2021). However, rich narratives or arguments might be Narrative Versus Argument Narrative vs. Argument, p. 50 sufficient for readers to imaginatively identify particular victims in need, making images superfluous.Narrative transport. ...
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... Marketing campaigns can be created to be more targeted and useful for generating donations by a better understanding of what drives and motivates people to donate to a charity (Kashif et al., 2015). Several research on donations in the non-profit sector found the personal empathy value significant (Basil et al., 2008;Bergh & Reinstein, 2020;Martinez-levy et al., 2017;Verhaert & Van den Poel, 2011). In this respect, the impact of empathy on charitable donation intention is fully mediated by guilt responses (Basil et al., 2008), and there is a considerable amount of literature on guilt to be another relating factor for an individual's intention to donate to charity (Basil et al., 2008;Brennan & Binney, 2010;Urbonavicius et al., 2019). ...
... Based on recent debates about non-profit advertising's effectiveness (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020;Kim, 2014) and the development of neuromarketing research in the last decade , we examined how the later can help to improve and predict the first one. ...
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... In contrast, the emotional reactions associated with an urge to relieve the suffering of someone else, elicited by blood users' demand information, is fast and spontaneous (Bergh and Reinstein, 2020). The literature indicates that people are prosocial and cooperative when they make more spontaneous decisions (e.g., Rand et al., 2012;Rand, 2016). ...
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... They do not search for information on charities' impact (Metzger & Günther, 2019) and often prefer less effective over more effective charities (Berman et al., 2018;Caviola et al., 2020). In general, donation decisions are surprisingly unaffected by charities' effectiveness, even when this information is explicitly provided (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020;Karlan & Wood, 2017;Metzger & Günther, 2019). ...
... This incentivizes people to rely on emotions (e.g., feelings of empathic concern), rather than reasoning (e.g., cost-benefit analyses), even though emotion-based altruism is usually less effective (Bloom, 2017). For instance, people are more moved by the plight of a single individual than by the suffering of many (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020;Small & Loewenstein, 2003;Västfjäll et al., 2014). Natural disasters are often accompanied by extensive media coverage that vividly communicates others' suffering. ...
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People usually engage in (or at least profess to engage in) altruistic acts to benefit others. Yet, they routinely fail to maximize how much good is achieved with their donated money and time. An accumulating body of research has uncovered various psychological factors that can explain why people’s altruism tends to be ineffective. These prior studies have mostly focused on proximate explanations (e.g., emotions, preferences, lay beliefs). Here, we adopt an evolutionary perspective and highlight how three fundamental motives—parochialism, status, and conformity—can explain many seemingly disparate failures to do good effectively. Our approach outlines ultimate explanations for ineffective altruism and we illustrate how fundamental motives can be leveraged to promote more effective giving.
... They do not search for information on charities' impact (Metzger & Günther, 2019) and often prefer less effective over more effective charities (Berman et al., 2018;Caviola et al., 2020). In general, donation decisions are surprisingly unaffected by charities' effectiveness, even when this information is explicitly provided (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020;Karlan & Wood, 2017;Metzger & Günther, 2019). ...
... This incentivizes people to rely on emotions (e.g., feelings of empathic concern), rather than reasoning (e.g., cost-benefit analyses), even though emotion-based altruism is usually less effective (Bloom, 2017). For instance, people are more moved by the plight of a single individual than by the suffering of many (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020;Small & Loewenstein, 2003;Västfjäll et al., 2014). Natural disasters are often accompanied by extensive media coverage that vividly communicates others' suffering. ...
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... The evidence for the effectiveness of effectiveness information is mixed. Some studies have found no effect [74,75], while some of our own studies have found a large effect, increasing the proportion of effective donors from zero to 17% or even higher [21,76]. Other studies point to heterogeneity among donors, with minimal effects overall but larger effects for donors who are more altruistically motivated [77] and more educated, especially when encouraged to think more deliberately [78]. ...
... Other studies point to heterogeneity among donors, with minimal effects overall but larger effects for donors who are more altruistically motivated [77] and more educated, especially when encouraged to think more deliberately [78]. Providing more tangible details about a charity's intervention strategies may also make giving more effective [75,79]. All studies to date use limited amounts of effectiveness information, but some donors, including donors willing to give large amounts, may be influenced by more extensive information. ...
Article
The most effective charities are hundreds of times more effective than typical charities, yet few donors prioritize effectiveness. Why is that? How might we increase the effectiveness of charitable giving? We review the motivational and epistemic causes of (in)effective giving. Many donors view charitable giving as a matter of personal preference, which favors decisions based on emotional appeal rather than effectiveness. In addition, while many donors are motivated to give effectively, they often have misconceptions and cognitive biases that reduce effective giving. Nearly all research on charitable giving interventions focuses on increasing donation amounts. However, to increase societal benefit, donation effectiveness is likely to be more important. This underscores the need for research on strategies to encourage effective giving.
... One may wonder why we did not reliably detect identifiable victim effects in the present experiments given the history and recency of finding such effects (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020). We offer two responses to this curiosity: equivalence testing and alternative explanations. ...
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In response to crises, people sometimes prioritize fewer specific identifiable victims over many unspecified statistical victims. How other factors can explain this bias remains unclear. So two experiments investigated how complying with public health recommendations during the COVID19 pandemic depended on victim portrayal, reflection, and philosophical beliefs (Total N = 998). Only one experiment found that messaging about individual victims increased compliance compared to messaging about statistical victims—i.e., “flatten the curve” graphs—an effect that was undetected after controlling for other factors. However, messaging about flu (vs. COVID19) indirectly reduced compliance by reducing perceived threat of the pandemic. Nevertheless, moral beliefs predicted compliance better than messaging and reflection in both experiments. The second experiment's additional measures revealed that religiosity, political preferences, and beliefs about science also predicted compliance. This suggests that flouting public health recommendations may be less about ineffective messaging or reasoning than philosophical differences.
... One may wonder why we did not reliably detect identifiable victim effects in the present experiments given the history and recency of finding such effects (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020). We offer two responses to this curiosity: equivalence testing and alternative explanations. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
In response to crises, people sometimes prioritize fewer specific identifiable victims over many unspecified statistical victims. How other factors can explain this bias remains unclear. So two experiments investigated how complying with public health recommendations during the COVID19 pandemic depended on victim portrayal, reflection, and philosophical beliefs (Total N = 998). Only one experiment found that messaging about individual victims increased compliance compared to messaging about statistical victims—i.e., "flatten the curve" graphs—an effect that was undetected after controlling for other factors. However, messaging about flu (vs. COVID19) indirectly reduced compliance by reducing perceived threat of the pandemic. Nevertheless, moral beliefs predicted compliance better than messaging and reflection in both experiments. The second experiment’s additional measures revealed that religiosity, political preferences, and beliefs about science also predicted compliance. This suggests that flouting public health recommendations may be less about ineffective messaging or reasoning than philosophical differences.
... However, a wealth of psychological evidence suggests that affective processes more strongly influence helping decisions than cognitive processes and rational considerations (see e.g., Farley & Stasson, 2003;Small, 2011). For example, decisions to help are driven more by information that trigger emotional responses, such as images depicting suffering, than rational considerations about the objective effects and efficiency of a donation (Bergh & Reinstein, 2020). The fact that donation decisions are often not driven by rational considerations is vividly illustrated by results found by Evangelidis and Van den Bergh (2013), who show that the number of fatalities, but not the number of survivors, drive donations to disaster relief appeals. ...
Article
Full-text available
Are disaster relief appeals more successful if they emphasize the material cost of disaster events in terms of economic damages and need for shelter, food, and health care, or if they emphasize the human cost in terms of psychological suffering and trauma caused? Although giving patterns seem to suggest that large‐scale events that cause widespread material damage (e.g., the Asian Tsunami of 2004) are more successful at eliciting donations than smaller scaled events, it is argued that this pattern is explained by the fact that large perceived material damage leads to more perceived human suffering. In other words, it is the perceived human suffering which is the proximal driver of donations, rather than the material damage itself. Therefore, relief appeals that emphasize the human cost of events are more successful at eliciting donations than appeals that emphasize the material cost of events. This was demonstrated in a study focusing on donations by British participants (N = 200) to the Syrian refugee crisis in 2020, a study focusing on donations by British participants to victims of severe weather events in Eastern and Southern Africa in 2020 (N = 210), and a study among British participants focusing on a fictitious event (N = 150).