Prosociality during COVID-19: Globally focussed
solidarity brings greater benefits than nationally
Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway,
University of London, Egham, UK
Hanna Zagefka, Department of Psychology,
Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham
TW20 0EX, UK.
Many charities are appealing for donations to address prob-
lems caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Two survey studies
(total N=500) tested predictors of donation intentions of
British participants to help those suffering from the crisis in
Britain (ingroup donations) and overseas (outgroup dona-
tions). Perceptions of international, global common fate in
our success in managing and overcoming the crisis was pos-
itively associated with prosocial intentions towards both
national ingroup and outgroup targets. In contrast, a desire
to ‘close ranks’within the national ingroup in the face of
the pandemic threat was associated with more prosocial
intentions towards national ingroup targets only, but it was
associated with fewer prosocial intentions towards outgroup
targets. This suggests that a focus on global solidarity
(in the form of global common fate and identification with
all humans) has positive effects on helping both within and
across group boundaries, whereas a focus on national soli-
darity (in the form of ‘closing ranks’in the face of the pan-
demic threat) has positive effects on helping within the
national group but negative effects on prosocial tendencies
towards outgroup members. The effect of perceived global
common fate on both ingroup and outgroup helping was
mediated by identification with all of humanity. Findings are
discussed in terms of practical implications for managing
Received: 15 January 2021 Revised: 24 May 2021 Accepted: 24 May 2021
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© 2021 The Author. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
J Community Appl Soc Psychol. 2021;1–14. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/casp 1
the COVID-19 crisis. Please refer to the Supplementary
Material section to find this article's Community and Social
common fate, COVID-19, donation, identification with all of
humanity, intergroup helping, prosociality, solidarity
The COVID-19 pandemic has been gripping the globe for an extended period of time, and this is posing unprece-
dented challenges for the charity sector. Many people are feeling the impact of the lockdown-induced economic
downturn on their personal finances. Charitable donations have declined (Charities Aid Foundation, 2020), making
competition for funding tougher. At the same time, the need of those suffering from the economic and health
impacts of the pandemic, particularly among those who were already disadvantaged before the crisis, is growing. The
goal of this work was to investigate what motivates people to donate money to help others suffering from the
impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic—both those who are members of the national ingroup and those who are mem-
bers of national outgroups. There is a wealth of fundraising appeals addressing coronavirus-related problems both
domestically and internationally, and this work set out to test predictors of donating to causes at home and abroad.
Considered were the effects of a perception of global common fate in managing the pandemic, potential effects of
this on identification with all of humanity, and effects of a desire to ‘close ranks’at the national level to manage the
crisis. As such, a focus on global solidarity was juxtapositioned with a focus on national solidarity, to chart their
effects on prosocial behaviours within and across national group boundaries.
1.1 |Theoretical background: Group identities and helping
The theoretical foundations to this investigation lie in the literature on social identities, group processes, and
prosocial behaviour. There are three ways that are relevant here in which social identities inform prosocial behaviour.
First, in categorical terms, people are more likely to help ingroup members than outgroup members. By and large,
help is more readily forthcoming for others that are part of the social ingroup (Bloom, 2017; Stuermer &
Snyder, 2010; van Leeuwen & Zagefka, 2017). For example, those who incorporate other humans across ethnic, reli-
gious, and national boundaries into their ‘moral ingroup’are more likely to offer help, even in the face of potentially
great personal sacrifice, as has been demonstrated in studies of those who assisted Jewish people in Nazi-occupied
Europe (Reykowski, 2002). Ingroup bias in donation decisions has also been demonstrated in the context of
COVID-19 (Li, Li, Jiang, & Liu, 2020). Of course, people do, on occasion, also extend kindness towards outgroup
members (Sierksma, Thijs, & Verkuyten, 2015; Stürmer, Snyder, & Omoto, 2005; Vezzali, Cadamuro, Versari,
Giovannini, & Trifiletti, 2015), but generally ingroup helping is more easily triggered. Thus, whether someone is seen
as an ingroup member or an outgroup member affects the likelihood that this person will be helped when in need.
Second, in correlational terms, the more people identify with and are psychologically engaged in their ingroup,
the more important that group is to their sense of self, and the more they are motivated to help others in that group.
Strength of identification with social categories clearly affects helping decisions, in the form of donations and other
prosocial behaviours (e.g., Chapman, Masser, & Louis, 2020; Drury et al., 2019). Thus, helping decisions are not only
affected by categorical ‘ingroup versus outgroup’categorization of a given target. Rather, once a target has been
categorized as ‘ingroup’, the extent of the potential helper's identification with the common identity also matters.
There is clear evidence that greater perceived oneness between self and other (Cialdini, Brown, Lewis, &
Neuberg, 1997) and greater fusion with the group (Swann, G
omez, Huici, Morales, & Hixon, 2010) increase ingroup
helping. Ingroup identification has been shown to be linked to behaviours designed to protect other ingroup mem-
bers also in the context of COVID-19 (Liekefett & Becker, 2021). Thus, the more strongly someone is identified with
their group, the more likely is it that this person will feel moved to act prosocially towards other ingroup members.
Third, group memberships are malleable and depend on situational salience and context (Jetten, Reicher,
Haslam, & Cruwys, 2020; Turner, 1987). New shared identities can be created and arise from novel circumstances,
such as shared adversity (Ntontis, Drury, Amlôt, Rubin, & Williams, 2020; see also Solnit, 2010). Thus, if identities
are pliable, and if they are related to prosociality, this opens the opportunity to use them as a lever to increase
prosociality and solidarity in the face of humanitarian emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
To be sure, there are many factors other than those related to identity that affect whether prosocial behaviour
will be displayed. For example, there might be individual differences in values and prosocial tendencies (Politi, Van
Assche, Caprara, & Phalet, 2021) that impact on decisions to help. In this current article, we chose to focus on vari-
ables related to identities and global and national solidarity for two reasons. First, at least in Britain, appeals to
national solidarity were featured frequently in the media and in soundbites by politicians at the start of the pandemic
and throughout, and we were interested in studying the effects of this. For example, citizens were told to comply
with social distancing rules for the sake of ‘Queen and country’(The Economist, 2020), to ‘protect the NHS’(with
the NHS being the National Health Service, a cherished national institution subject of much national pride, Depart-
ment of Health and Social Care, 2021), and to display ‘national unity’(BBC, 2020b).
Second, there was growing concern among health professionals about a lack of global solidarity, for example, in
the form of ‘vaccine nationalism’(e.g., The Guardian, 2021), and we were interested in the psychological processes
that might help address this problem. For example, the WHO warned that the world's poorest risk being ‘trampled in
stampede for vaccines’(The Telegraph, 2020). Hence, there seemed to be a mismatch between the nationally
focussed rhetoric employed by politicians, and the need for a global and international perspective highlighted as nec-
essary by health experts (e.g., The Guardian, 2020).
For these reasons, the focus of this work was on variables related to global solidarity, in the form of perceived
common fate and identification with all humanity, and national solidarity, in the form of a desire to ‘close ranks’with
other national ingroup members in the light of the pandemic threat. In this way, the effects of global solidarity was
juxtapositioned with the effects of national solidarity.
1.2 |Factors related to global solidarity: Perceived global common fate, and
identification with all humanity
There are reasons to propose that perceived global common fate and shared threat will increase identification with others
who share the same fate, and through this with help extended to those others, also in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.
As demonstrated in the context of many disasters, suffering from the same adversity can create new shared identities and
solidarity with others who would formerly have been seen as outgroup members (Bowe et al., 2021; Ntontis et al. 2021;
Solnit, 2010). For example, in the context of a flooded community, common fate was positively associated with an emerg-
ing sense of community and identification with the group, as well as with social support (Ntontis et al., 2020).
Support can also be gleamed from the results of some classic experiments: Schachter (1959) demonstrated that
participants induced to be jointly anxious were more likely to seek out the company of others, confirming the effect
of shared threat on affiliation-seeking behaviour. A number of other theoretical approaches have emphasized joint
threat, uncertainty and anxiety as important motives for seeking group belonging and affiliation (e.g., Baumeister &
Leary, 1995). The fact that perceived common fate can give rise to a sense of shared identity is supported by evi-
dence that suggests that a common threat invokes recategorization, so that those formerly seen as outgroup mem-
bers become part of the common ingroup (Flade, Klar, & Imhoff, 2019), and it is supported by evidence that shows
that a common perceived threat increases identification with others exposed to this threat (Schmid &
Muldoon, 2015). The fact that perceived common fate is linked to not only to affiliation-seeking but also to helping
for fellow sufferers is further supported by laboratory studies which find that participants are more likely to help
others who are facing a similar fate to themselves (Dovidio & Morris, 1975). Other work, too, supports the notion
that shared threat motivates ingroup strengthening behaviours (Wohl, Branscombe, & Reysen, 2010).
The findings reviewed above speak to an effect of ‘common fate’on ‘identification’and to an effect of ‘common
fate’on ‘helping’. In addition, as also reviewed above there is evidence that shared group membership and ‘identifica-
tion’with a social category increases ‘helping’towards other members of that category. The strong previous evidence
for a link between group identification and helping suggests that identification might function as a mediator, so that
shared common fate increases identification, which in turn increases prosocial intentions towards ingroup members.
It was expected that these mechanisms wouldalsoholdtrueinthecontextofthe COVID-19 crisis. One feature that
makes the pandemic interesting in theoretical terms is that it constitutes a rarely precedented situation, where the problems
caused by the COVID-19 pandemic threat are shared not only with co-nationals within one's country, but with all humans
globally. COVID-19 poses a threat to humanity that does not stop at national borders. Because the COVID-19 pandemic
adversely impacts virtually all humans, albeit in unequal measure (see, e.g., BBC, 2020a), this devastating event allows us to
test whether the perceived shared common fate on a global level increases identification with all humans (McFarland,
Webb, & Brown, 2012), and prosocial tendencies towards all humans—including both national ingroup and outgroup mem-
bers. ‘Identification with all of humanity’is a construct that was introduced by McFarland et al. (2012) to capture an orienta-
tion whereby humanity is not perceived in terms of ethnic, religious or other divisions, but where it is perceived as one all-
inclusive group with all members being entitled to fair, non-prejudiced treatment. Given that the pandemic has created a sit-
uation where humans can potentially develop an increased awareness of their mutual interdependence and globally shared
threats, this situation is well suited to assessing the potency of the construct ‘all of humanity’for shaping social behaviour.
Hence, it was expected that a perception that humanity faces a shared global common fate in the face of coronavi-
rus would be related to greater identification with all of humanity, and that this variable would mediate the positive
effects of perceived global common fate on all others suffering from the crisis, including both national ingroup members
and national outgroup members, since regardless of nationality all humans are fellow ingroup members in the overarch-
ing category of humanity. A focus on global solidarity, in the form of global common fate and identification with all of
humanity, was thus proposed to motivate prosocial acts both within but also across national group boundaries.
1.3 |Factors related to national solidarity: National ‘closing ranks’
As indicated above, a survey of media coverage of political responses to the pandemic in Britain suggests that
appeals by politicians to national solidarity have been much more frequent than appeals to global solidarity. Political
leaders often use external threats as an opportunity to cement their own leadership by calling for the population to
‘rally round the flag’and ‘close ranks’, that is, to move closer together, psychologically speaking, in the face of adver-
sity (Reicher & Hopkins, 2001). Because external threats can be used by politicians to further their own agendas
(Reicher & Hopkins, 2001), it is maybe no surprise that politicians in Britain have capitalized on this narrative, also in
the context of COVID-19. National identities are easily invoked (Billig, 1995), they are flagged by politicians and
in the media through symbols and habits of language. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, too, perceptions of
threat are open to manipulation (Lalot, Abrams, & Travaglino, 2021), and they have important behavioural conse-
quences, such as, indeed, increasing support for political leaders (Yam et al., 2020).
In Britain, such sentiments of national ‘closing ranks’, standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’and demonstrating greater
‘national unity’are often invoked by references to the ‘Dunkirk spirit’–to this day, memories of Britain's war effort
and success during WWII go a long way to engender feelings of national pride and unity in this country (e.g., The Evening
Express, 2021; The Telegraph, 2021). The phrase, first used sometime in 1940, refers to the evacuation of the British
troops from northern France after German military advances. The evacuation took place under constant air attack and
using warships but also a flotilla of small civilian pleasure boats and civilian working barges. The successful evacuation was
then referenced by politicians to raise British morale and this gave rise to the notion of ‘Dunkirk spirit’. The phrase implies
refusal to surrender when Britain is faced with an external threat. It invokes nationalist sentiments and is hence an image
popular with the political right, but it has also connotations of solidarity and ‘pulling together’in times of adversity. As seen
above, closer affinity and identification with a social group positively affects willingness to act prosocially towards others in
that group. Because of this, appeals to the idea of ‘closing ranks’atthenationallevelinthefaceoftheCOVID-19threat
can be assumed to be related to greater prosocial tendencies towards fellow national ingroup members. Greater solidarity
at the national level implies greater psychological closeness with fellow nationals. Because prosocial behaviour is encour-
aged by greater perceived closeness to, similarity with, and oneness with the target of help, national ‘closing ranks’should
encourage help for national ingroup members suffering due to COVID-19. After all, the idea that the national ingroup
needs to ‘pull together’to defeat an external threat does not only imply that oneself will be helped by other group mem-
bers, but it also implies that oneself has an obligation to help other ingroup members.
At the same time, an appeal to national solidarity throws into sharp relief group boundaries that exclude those who
are not part of the national ingroup. National solidarity clearly stipulates that certain actions and sacrifices are required
for the benefit of the national ingroup, whereas national outgroups are defined as being outside of the moral sphere of
obligation. Because of this, it is hypothesized that national ‘closing ranks’would be positively related to help extended
to fellow nationals, but that it would be negatively related to help extended to national outgroup members.
1.4 |Summary of hypotheses, and the present research
In sum, then, it was proposed that a perception of global common fate in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic would
be positively associated with prosocial helping, in the form of donation intentions to benefit both national ingroup and
outgroup members (Hypothesis 1). In contrast, it was proposed that a desire to ‘close ranks’at the national level would
be positively associated with donation intentions to benefit national ingroup members, but that it would decrease dona-
tion tendencies towards national outgroup members (Hypothesis 2). Moreover, it was hypothesized that the effect of
global common fate on donations would be mediated by identification with all of humanity, so that shared fate would
be positively associated with identification with all humans, which would in turn be positively associated with
prosociality towards all humans, including both national ingroup and outgroup members (Hypothesis 3).
To test our predictions, two studies were conducted. The first study took place in October 2020, and the second
study was conducted in November 2020, to replicate and confirm the effects. Predictions were identical across both
studies, but two studies were conducted to meet standards for the demonstration of replicability of results. Study
1 asked British participants about their willingness to help fellow British nationals (ingroup members), and their
willingness to help those suffering from the effects of the pandemic in China and Syria. China was chosen as an out-
group target of interest because the virus first emerged from China, making it an interesting comparison point. Syria
was chosen because at the time of the study there were some actual charitable donation appeals by humanitarian
charities focussing on the devastating impact of the pandemic on refugee populations.
2.1.1 | Participants
The sample consisted of 250 people recruited via the Prolific platform in October 2020 (mean age =36 years, age
range 18–70, 172 females, 77 males, 1 non-binary person). All participants were required to have British nationality.
The sample size was determined by the fact that effects stabilize around N=250 (Schönbrodt & Perugini, 2013),
and that this sample size generated sufficient power to similar effects in previous work on intergroup helping in the
context of COVID-19 (James & Zagefka, 2017; Zagefka, 2021). Moreover, an a priori power analysis with G*Power
(Faul, Erdfelder, Lang, & Buchner, 2007) was conducted, assuming a slope of .16 and α=.05 and aiming for a power
of 0.80. This recommended N=237, and we conservatively recruited N=250 to be sure to achieve at least this
desired level of power.
2.1.2 | Measures
All measures were assessed with Likert scales (1 =‘strongly disagree’to 5 =‘strongly agree’). To start with, partici-
pants were told that the survey questions all related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Perceived global common fate was measured with four items: ‘We need to address coronavirus as a global com-
munity’,‘Citizens of the world need to address the coronavirus problem together’,‘The British success in addressing
coronavirus depends on global cooperation’, and ‘The British fate is interlinked with that of other coun-
National ‘closing ranks’was measured with three items: ‘When threatened from outside, the British people must
stick together’,‘In the face of an external threat, we British must rally round the flag’, and ‘When facing threats from
outside Britain, we must all do our bit to defend the British people’,α=.83.
Identification with all of humanity was measured with two items inspired by McFarland et al.'s scale (2012): ‘I
identify with all humans’, and ‘I see myself as a citizen of the world’,α=.65.
Donations to ingroup victims was measured with two items previously used by Zagefka, Noor, Randsley de
Moura, Hopthrow, and Brown (2011): ‘I would be willing to donate money to British coronavirus victims’, and ‘I
think it is important to donate money to British coronavirus victims’,α=.82.
Donations to outgroup victims were measured with items worded like the ones above, but this time asking about
donations to Chinese coronavirus victims and coronavirus victims in Syria, α=.92 for this 4-item measure. The order
in which ingroup and outgroup donations were measured was randomized.
All aspects of this and the subsequent studies were in line with British Psychological Society ethics guidelines.
The data for this study and Study 2 can be found here: https://osf.io/m67fa/?view_only=a66ce2de2d3c49c393
2.2 |Results and discussion
Bivariate correlations and means are displayed in Table 1 (values below the diagonal). To test whether perceived
global common fate and national ‘closing ranks’would have the predicted effects on ingroup and outgroup helping,
that is, H1 and H2, respectively, two linear regressions were run with these two variables as predictor variables.
Results are displayed in Table 2.
When predicting ingroup donations, the overall model was significant, F(2,247) =3.27, p< .05, R
this was also the case when predicting outgroup donations, F(2,247) =18.18, p< .001, R
=0.13. As is apparent, in
line with H1 perceived global common fate was positively related to donations. However, although according to H1
positive associations were expected for both outgroup and ingroup helping, the association with ingroup helping did
not reach significance. In line with H2, national ‘closing ranks’was positively related to ingroup donations, but nega-
tively related to outgroup donations.
To test H3, whether the effect of ‘perceived global common fate’on ‘outgroup donations’was mediated by
‘identification with all of humanity’, Hayes' (2018) PROCESS macro Model 4 was used. Perceived global common
fate was related to identification with all of humanity, b=0.65, SE =0.07, 95% CI [0.67; 1.85]. Identification with all
of humanity was, in turn, related to outgroup donations, b=0.40, SE =0.09, 95% CI [0.22; 0.57]. As expected, there
was an indirect effect of global common fate on outgroup donations, b=0.26, SE =0.06, 95% CI [0.14; 0.38].
Results are illustrated in Figure 1.
To test the second part of H3, whether the effect of ‘perceived global common fate’on ‘ingroup donations’
was mediated by ‘identification with all of humanity’, again Hayes' (2018) PROCESS macro Model 4 was used. Per-
ceived global common fate was related to identification with all of humanity, b=0.65, SE =0.07, 95% CI [0.52;
0.79]. Identification with all of humanity was, in turn, related to ingroup donations, b=0.17, SE =0.08, 95% CI
[0.007; 0.33]. As expected, there was an indirect effect of global common fate on ingroup donations, b=0.11,
SE =0.06, 95% CI [0.004; 0.24].
Taken together, clear evidence was found for all three hypotheses. Perceived global common fate was positively
associated with help for outgroup members and ingroup members, although the latter did not reach significance
(H1). In contrast, a desire to ‘close ranks’at the national level was positively associated with help for national ingroup
members but it did also have a strongly negative relationship with help for outgroup members (H2). In other words,
while an emphasis on global solidarity had positive associations with prosociality within and across group boundaries,
national solidarity had positive associations with prosociality within the ingroup but it was negatively related to
prosociality with outgroup members. This suggests that in order to foster maximum benefits in terms of prosociality,
one would be well advised to favour a global perspective over a national perspective.
Mediation analyses confirmed that the effect of perceived global common fate on help for outgroup members
and ingroup members was indeed due to a greater degree of identification with all of humanity (H3). As expected, a
perception of having a common destiny and fortune was positively associated with participants feeling closer to and
more connected with national outgroup members, which in turn was positively linked to prosocial tendencies
towards them. These results support the idea that having a common destiny or facing a common adversity can help
redefine identities in such a way that former outgroup members become included in a common ingroup, and there-
fore become part of one's moral ingroup and deserving of altruistic assistance. Following these encouraging results, a
second study was run to confirm the robustness of the effects.
TABLE 1 Bivariate correlations and means, Studies 1 (N=250) and 2 (N=250)
2. Donations to
with all of
1. Donations to ingroup victims .55*** .18** .21*** .20***
2. Donations to outgroup victims .52*** .17** .15* .20***
3. National closing ranks .12* .33*** .09 .06
4. Global common fate .10 .14* .001 .31***
5. Identification with all of humanity .16** .30*** .18** .52***
3.20 2.81 3.61 4.30 4.08
0.89 0.99 0.86 0.62 0.78
3.17 2.64 3.38 3.89 3.97
0.99 1.00 0.89 0.74 0.76
Note: Study 1 correlations below the diagonal and Study 2 correlations above the diagonal. The scale for both studies
ranged 1–5 with 5 indicating strong endorsement of the construct.
*p< .05; **p< .01; ***p< .001.
TABLE 2 Regression results predicting ingroup and outgroup helping from perceived global common fate and national closing ranks, Studies 1 (N=250) and 2 (N=250)
DV: Donations to ingroup victims DV: Donations to outgroup victims
beta Unstandardized B
beta Unstandardized B
Study 1 results
Perceived global common fate .10 .15 .04 .33 .14* .23 .05 .43
National ‘closing ranks’.12* .13 .01 .26 .33*** .38 .55 .24
Study 2 results
Perceived global common fate .20** .26 .08 .44 .16* .22 .04 .42
National ‘closing ranks’.16* .18 0.20 0.34 .19** .21 .36 .07
*p< .05; **p< .01; ***p< .001.
3.1.1 | Participants
A second sample of 250 people was recruited via the Prolific platform in late November 2020 (mean age =35 years,
age range 18–77, 169 females, 80 males, 1 differently identified). All participants were required to have British
nationality. The sample size was designed to match that of Study 1.
3.1.2 | Measures
All measures were assessed with Likert scales (1 =‘strongly disagree’to 5 =‘strongly agree’). To start with, partici-
pants were told that the survey questions all related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Perceived global common fate,national ‘closing ranks’, and identification with all of humanity were measured with
items very similar or identical to those used in study 1, α=.78 for the four item measure of global common fate,
α=.83 for the three item measure of national ‘closing ranks’, and α=.69 for the two item measure of identification
with all of humanity.
Donations to ingroup victims was measured with three items, preceded by the question ‘Would you be willing to
donate money to help people suffering from the coronavirus crisis?’:‘I would donate to help British people in trou-
ble’,‘I would want to offer financial support to British people in trouble’, and ‘Donating money to British people is
the right thing to do’,α=.95.
Donations to outgroup victims were measured with the same three items, but this time tailored to the target of
Chinese people suffering due to the COVID-19 crisis, α=.95. The order in which ingroup and outgroup donations
were measured was randomized. Because the two outgroups in Study 1 yielded very similar responses, to the point
that it was sensible to not treat them separately, in Study 2 a decision was made to only focus on one outgroup.
3.2 |Results and discussion
Bivariate correlations and means are displayed in Table 1 (values above the diagonal). To test whether perceived
global common fate and national ‘closing ranks’would have the predicted effects on ingroup and outgroup helping,
FIGURE 1 Identification with all of humanity mediates the effect of perceived global common fate on ingroup
and outgroup helping. Unstandardized path coefficients for Study 1 (N=250) above the arrows and for Study 2
(N=250) below the arrows. ***p< .001
respectively, again two linear regressions were run with these two variables as predictor variables. Results are dis-
played in Table 2.
When predicting ingroup donations, the overall model was significant, F(2,247) =9.26, p< .05, R
this was also the case when predicting outgroup donations, F(2,247) =7.35, p< .001, R
=0.06. Again, perceived
global common fate was positively related to outgroup donations and ingroup donations (significantly so for both tar-
get groups), whereas national ‘closing ranks’was positively related to ingroup donations, but negatively related to
outgroup donations. Taken together, again H1 and H2 were supported.
To test whether the effect of perceived global common fate on ‘outgroup donations’was mediated by identifi-
cation with all of humanity (H3), again Hayes' (2018) PROCESS macro Model 4 was used. Mirroring the results of
the previous study, perceived global common fate was again related to identification with all of humanity, b=0.32,
SE =0.06, 95% CI [0.20; 0.44]. Identification with all of humanity was, in turn, related to outgroup donations,
b=0.24, SE =0.09, 95% CI [0.07; 0.41]. As expected, again there was an indirect effect of global common fate on
outgroup donations, b=0.08, SE =0.03, 95% CI [0.02; 0.15]. Results are illustrated in Figure 1.
Testing, with Hayes' Model 4, whether the effect of perceived global common fate on ‘ingroup donations’was
mediated by identification with all of humanity (H3), perceived global common fate was related to identification with
all of humanity, b=0.32, SE =0.06, 95% CI [0.20; 0.44]. Identification with all of humanity was, in turn, related to
ingroup donations, b=0.20, SE =0.08, 95% CI [0.03; 0.36]. As expected, there was an indirect effect of global com-
mon fate on ingroup donations, b=0.06, SE =0.03, 95% CI [0.01; 0.13].
Taken together, again there was clear support for all three hypotheses. Perceived global common fate was posi-
tively associated with prosociality towards both ingroup and outgroup targets (H1), whereas national ‘closing ranks’
was positively associated only with prosociality towards ingroup targets, but it was negatively associated with
prosociality with outgroup targets (H2). Once more, the effects of global common fate on both ingroup and outgroup
helping were mediated by identification with all of humanity (H3).
Results are in line with the notion that a perception of global common fate increases donation intentions that benefit
both national ingroup and national outgroup members and that it does so via enhanced identification with all of
humanity, whereas a desire to ‘close ranks’at the national level increases donations intentions that benefit national
ingroup members but decreases helping extended across national group boundaries. These findings have some impor-
tant theoretical but also practical implications.
In terms of theoretical implications, the findings confirm the usefulness of the category ‘all of humanity’. This
construct has previously been introduced and measured to explain a range of intergroup phenomena, for example,
the actions of those who helped Jews during the Nazi regime in Europe (McFarland, Brown, & Webb, 2013). How-
ever, there has rarely been a situation where all of humanity is facing the same immediate threat as is the case with
the current pandemic. This article capitalized on the opportunity to demonstrate that identification with all of
humanity can be triggered by perceived global common fate, and that it might be particularly important for psycho-
logical responses to events that can be construed as a threat at either the national or global level. Another example
of such a threat could be climate change.
A further theoretical implication is that the findings confirm the importance of identity processes in informing
people's helping decisions. The findings are in line with what would be expected on the grounds of social identity
theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986): if the ingroup is perceived as facing a threat, this often increases identification with
the group and also prosociality towards ingroup members. COVID-19 is undoubtedly one such threat that can be
expected to generate such processes (Jetten et al., 2020).
Relatedly, another theoretical implication is that the same theoretical predictors of prosociality can have conflu-
ent or divergent effects on ingroup and outgroup helping. In addition to once again underscoring the importance of
social identities for the study of prosociality, this means that group memberships might not only have direct, main
effects on the extent of help, but that they might also moderate the effects of variables associated with prosociality
(on the idea of group memberships as moderators, see also Stürmer et al., 2005). In other words, the findings suggest
that considering group memberships in the context of prosociality can lead to a more nuanced picture than
approaches that focus merely on individual differences and intrapersonal processes.
Last but not least, the present work goes beyond the existing literature in one important way. It tests, simulta-
neously, the concurrent roles of (a) threat external to the ingroup and (b) threat external to both the ingroup and the
outgroup, as predictors of ingroup and outgroup helping. This dual focus is novel, and the findings present some ini-
tial insights which speak to the implications for prosociality when considered within a framework that incorporates
both threat and multiple levels of categorization.
Having said this, maybe even more important than the theoretical implications are practical implications of these
findings. These are twofold: insights for the generation of charitable donations more generally, and insights for
behaviour change in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In general terms, charitable organizations need to understand what motivates people to donate to charitable
causes. Psychological factors that drive donations can be used to design more effective fundraising appeals. The pre-
sent findings confirm that highlighting commonalities between potential donors and recipients of donations will be
beneficial. Any message that highlights camaraderie and unity between the two entities should positively affect
donation proclivity. Appeals to solidarity, and the idea of unity in the face of common threat and fate, are likely to
increase donations. Moreover, of course different fundraising appeals are often in stiff competition with one another,
and the findings highlight that measures that elicit donations at one level of categorization (e.g., the national ingroup)
will often have detrimental effects at other levels of categorization (e.g., national outgroups). Careful consideration
of funding priorities that takes into account these interdependent effects is therefore advisable.
Having said this, maybe the most important practical implications of the present findings are specific to the
COVID-19 situation. In agreement with Drury, Carter, Ntontis, and Guven (2021), the findings confirm that group
processes can be harnessed to bring about behaviour change in the context of this pandemic, and this present work
applied this general principle to the realm of prosociality and donations designed to mitigate the impacts of the pan-
demic. Appeals that emphasize certain unique features of the COVID-19 situation, for example, goal
interdependence between different countries and the fact that all humans are united in facing the same adversity,
are likely to increase willingness to donate to the COVID-19 response both at home and abroad.
Clearly, there is a mismatch between the prevailing political rhetoric regarding the pandemic, and the messaging
that can be expected to bring the greatest benefits in the context of this global pandemic. British politicians are empha-
sizing national unity, which was shown here to have detrimental effects on willingness to extend help across national
boundaries. Yet, as seen above, the only feasible way out of the pandemic is international collaboration. Solidarity with
those suffering the impacts of the coronavirus in the world's poorest countries is not only vital because of principles of
fairness and human decency, but it is also in the self-interest of the rich nations: as repeatedly emphasized by health
experts, vaccinating an entire wealthy nation is not going to bring long-term solutions when the virus is allowed to
spread freely in other parts of the world, mutilate there, and boomerang back (The Guardian, 2020). In order to foster
support for the idea of global cooperation and mutual international help, messages that focus on global solidarity are
needed, rather than the messages that focus on national solidarity. The implications of the present results are that in
order to generate support for measures that are needed to overcome the crisis, the political rhetoric needs to move
away from a focus on national unity, and put more emphasis on the need for global solidarity. National protectionism is
not going to be a viable solution for managing this global pandemic, which requires a global solution.
The present work has, of course, some important limitations, which at the same time point to avenues for fur-
ther research and improvement. Most importantly, the data are correlational, which means that they cannot support
any claims about the causal direction of observed effects. Further, experimental data would be needed for that.
Moreover, the present research only studied self-reported intentions to donate, rather than actual donation behav-
iour. Therefore, a degree of uncertainty remains about whether the processes identified here would also affect
donation behaviour. Having said this, good evidence exists that often self-reports are a valid proxy for actual behav-
iour. Although people tend to over-report helping compared to actual behaviour in terms of mean levels, self-reports
and actual behaviour are quite highly correlated (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011; Zagefka et al., 2011). Therefore, self-
reports are likely to be a good proxy for actual behaviour in studies like the present which assess correlational pat-
terns. Nonetheless, future work could expand on the present design by incorporating a measure of actual behaviour.
In addition to addressing the methodological limitations acknowledged above, future work could also address some
interesting conceptual issues. Most importantly, it is not clear from this study whether the processes found here are spe-
cific to COVID-19, or whether they would emerge for other challenges that can be perceived as being shared by national
ingroup members or indeed all of humanity. Other such challenges exist, with climate change being a prime example.
Future work would be needed to establish in how far the processes generalize to other global problems.
In sum, the findings suggest that a focus on global solidarity is preferable over national solidarity, not only on the
ground of humanitarian principles, but also because only a global focus is well aligned with an international solution to
the crisis, which is the only feasible solution according to health experts. Given that the pandemic is, at present, causing
simultaneously an increased need for funds to address COVID-19-related problems and a reduction in available funds
due to a global economic downturn, it is hoped that the psychological mechanisms described here can be useful to
increase the effectiveness of fundraising appeal design, and through this the management of the global pandemic.
DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
The data for the study can be found here: https://osf.io/m67fa/?view_only=a66ce2de2d3c49c39399bcecdf1f1959
Hanna Zagefka https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1598-0059
The questionnaires for both studies also included questions such as about blame attributions for the crisis and anxiety
related to the crisis. The study was designed to test both the processes outlined here and, separately, a hypothesis about
blame attributions and how they relate to helping. Blame attributions are not relevant for the present hypotheses and will
not be discussed further here.
In theory, it would be possible to test both hypotheses jointly using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). However, ingroup
donations and outgroup donations tend to be very highly correlated, as indeed they should be, given that both are strongly
driven by dispositional tendencies for altruism and empathy (see, e.g., Politi et al., 2021). Therefore, including them simulta-
neously as unrelated outcome variables in one model is not feasible. Although it would be possible to estimate two SEMs,
one for each outcome variable, this would add nothing over and above the regression and mediation analyses presented here.
Two structural equation models (SEMs) were also estimated, one predicting ingroup help and the other outgroup help.
Given that across the three hypotheses there are two main predictors and one mediator, the goal was to consider both
exogenous variables simultaneously when testing for mediation, to avoid risking inflation of the mediation hypothesis. In
the SEMs, ‘global common fate’and ‘national closing ranks’were the exogenous variables which were allowed to covary.
The model specified an indirect effect of global common fate on helping via ‘identification with all of humanity’, and it also
allowed for both an indirect effect (via identification with all of humanity) as well as a direct effect of ‘national closing
ranks’on helping. Both models fitted the data well (χ
s≤5.57, CFIs ≥0.90, RMSEAs ≤0.001). Crucially, the indirect
effects of ‘global common fate’were significant in both instances, with the standardized effect being 0.10, p< .02 when
predicting ingroup helping, and 0.13, p< .02 when predicting outgroup helping.
Again, SEMs tested, as for the previous study, if the indirect effects of global common fate on helping would still be signif-
icant in a model that also simultaneously included ‘national closing ranks’. Again, this was the case, with the standardized
indirect effect being 0.06, p< .004 when predicting ingroup helping, and 0.07, p< .008 when predicting outgroup helping.
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Additional supporting information may be found online in the Supporting Information section at the end of this
How to cite this article: Zagefka, H. (2021). Prosociality during COVID-19: Globally focussed solidarity brings
greater benefits than nationally focussed solidarity. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology,1–14.