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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Benefactor

 

Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal

Lara Aknin et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research provides the first support for a possible psychological universal: Human beings around the world derive emotional benefits from using their financial resources to help others (prosocial spending). In Study 1, survey data from 136 countries were examined and showed that prosocial spending is associated with greater happiness around the world, in poor and rich countries alike. To test for causality, in Studies 2a and 2b, we used experimental methodology, demonstrating that recalling a past instance of prosocial spending has a causal impact on happiness across countries that differ greatly in terms of wealth (Canada, Uganda, and India). Finally, in Study 3, participants in Canada and South Africa randomly assigned to buy items for charity reported higher levels of positive affect than participants assigned to buy the same items for themselves, even when this prosocial spending did not provide an opportunity to build or strengthen social ties. Our findings suggest that the reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts.

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The Importance of Being Marginal: Gender Differences in Generosity

Stefano DellaVigna et al.
NBER Working Paper, February 2013

Abstract:
Do men and women have different social preferences? Previous findings are contradictory. We provide a potential explanation using evidence from a field experiment. In a door-to-door solicitation, men and women are equally generous, but women become less generous when it becomes easy to avoid the solicitor. Our structural estimates of the social preference parameters suggest an explanation: women are more likely to be on the margin of giving, partly because of a less dispersed distribution of altruism. We find similar results for the willingness to complete an unpaid survey: women are more likely to be on the margin of participation.

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Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behavior

Robin Rosenberg, Shawnee Baughman & Jeremy Bailenson
PLoS ONE, January 2013

Background: Recent studies have shown that playing prosocial video games leads to greater subsequent prosocial behavior in the real world. However, immersive virtual reality allows people to occupy avatars that are different from them in a perceptually realistic manner. We examine how occupying an avatar with the superhero ability to fly increases helping behavior.

Principal Findings: Using a two-by-two design, participants were either given the power of flight (their arm movements were tracked to control their flight akin to Superman's flying ability) or rode as a passenger in a helicopter, and were assigned one of two tasks, either to help find a missing diabetic child in need of insulin or to tour a virtual city. Participants in the "super-flight" conditions helped the experimenter pick up spilled pens after their virtual experience significantly more than those who were virtual passengers in a helicopter.

Conclusion: The results indicate that having the "superpower" of flight leads to greater helping behavior in the real world, regardless of how participants used that power. A possible mechanism for this result is that having the power of flight primed concepts and prototypes associated with superheroes (e.g., Superman). This research illustrates the potential of using experiences in virtual reality technology to increase prosocial behavior in the physical world.

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Upward and downward social comparisons can decrease prosocial behavior

Jonathan Yip & Anita Kelly
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This experiment addressed whether upward or downward social comparisons can affect people's prosocial behavior toward the comparison targets. Undergraduates (N = 123) completed an inkblot test and then were randomly assigned to conditions in which they were told that their performance was either inferior or superior to their peers. A control group was given no performance feedback. Participants' self-reported prosocial behaviors were measured 2 days later. Results indicated that both the upward and downward comparison groups engaged in significantly less prosocial behavior than did the control group and that empathy toward their peers mediated this effect. Our findings suggest that upward or downward comparison can make people feel less empathic toward the targets and thus less inclined to help them.

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Nice Guys Finish Last and Guys in Last Are Nice: The Clash Between Doing Well and Doing Good

Fern Lin-Healy & Deborah Small
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
True altruism involves sacrifice and is thus incompatible, in people's minds, with benefits to the benefactor. Consistent with this prototype, selflessly motivated prosocial actors are perceived as less likely to benefit from their acts compared with selfishly motivated actors ("Nice guys finish last"), and prosocial actors who benefit are perceived as less benevolent than those who do not ("Guys in last are nice") - even in situations for which benefits are randomly determined and completely out of the control of the actor. The studies present supportive evidence of the reflexive association between a pure, selfless motive and sacrifice with respect to both individuals and organizations.

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Volunteering by Older Adults and Risk of Mortality: A Meta-Analysis

Morris Okun, Ellen WanHeung Yeung & Stephanie Brown
Psychology and Aging, forthcoming

Abstract:
Organizational volunteering has been touted as an effective strategy for older adults to help themselves while helping others. Extending previous reviews, we carried out a meta-analysis of the relation between organizational volunteering by late-middle-aged and older adults (minimum age = 55 years old) and risk of mortality. We focused on unadjusted effect sizes (i.e., bivariate relations), adjusted effect sizes (i.e., controlling for other variables such as health), and interaction effect sizes (e.g., the joint effect of volunteering and religiosity). For unadjusted effect sizes, on average, volunteering reduced mortality risk by 47%, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 38% to 55%. For adjusted effect sizes, on average, volunteering reduced mortality risk by 24%, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 16% to 31%. For interaction effect sizes, we found preliminary support that as public religiosity increases, the inverse relation between volunteering and mortality risk becomes stronger. The discussion identifies several unresolved issues and directions for future research.

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Making a Difference Matters: Impact Unlocks the Emotional Benefits of Prosocial Spending

Lara Aknin et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
When does giving lead to happiness? Here, we present two studies demonstrating that the emotional benefits of spending money on others (prosocial spending) are unleashed when givers are aware of their positive impact. In Study 1, an experiment using real charitable appeals, giving more money to charity led to higher levels of happiness only when participants gave to causes that explained how these funds are used to make a difference in the life of a recipient. In Study 2, participants were asked to reflect upon a time they spent money on themselves or on others in a way that either had a positive impact or had no impact. Participants who recalled a time they spent on others that had a positive impact were happiest. Together, these results suggest that highlighting the impact of prosocial spending can increase the emotional rewards of giving.

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Are Charitable Giving and Religious Attendance Complements or Substitutes? The Role of Measurement Error

Matthew Kim
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
Government policies sometimes cause unintended consequences for other potentially desirable behaviors. One such policy is the charitable tax deduction, which encourages charitable giving by allowing individuals to deduct giving from taxable income. Whether charitable giving and other desirable behaviors are complements or substitutes affect the welfare benefit of the deduction - complements increase the benefit, while substitutes decrease the benefit. This paper focuses on the effect of the deduction on one behavior in particular: religious attendance. Using data from the Independent Sector Survey of Giving and Volunteering, I estimate a tax price elasticity for religious attendance of -0.4, which implies that charitable giving and religious attendance are complements. I resolve the difference between my estimate and a recent estimate by W. S. Gruber (2004) that implies charitable giving and religious attendance are substitutes. While Gruber imputes itemization status, an important factor in calculating tax incentives, I use survey-reported itemization status. This imputation creates a large amount of non-classical measurement error. I show that the measurement error is responsible for the disparate results: If I also impute itemization status, I obtain similar results as Gruber.

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Reluctant altruism and peer pressure in charitable giving

Diane Reyniers & Richa Bhalla
Judgment and Decision Making, January 2013, Pages 7-15

Abstract:
Subjects donate individually (control group) or in pairs (treatment group). Those in pairs reveal their donation decision to each other. Average donations in the treatment group are significantly higher than in the control group. Paired subjects have the opportunity to revise their donation decision after discussion. Pair members shift toward each others' initial decisions. Subjects are happier with their decision when their donations are larger, but those in pairs are less happy, controlling for amount donated. These findings suggest reluctant altruism due to peer pressure in charitable giving.

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Generosity, Greed, Norms, and Death - Differential Effects of Mortality Salience on Charitable Behavior

Eva Jonas, Daniel Sullivan & Jeff Greenberg
Journal of Economic Psychology, April 2013, Pages 47-57

Abstract:
Terror management theory (TMT) states that mortality salience prompts people to follow cultural standards. But many cultures value both generosity and accumulation of wealth. Combining TMT with the focus theory of normative conduct, we suggest that whether mortality salience encourages generosity or greed depends on the norm(s) salient in the situation. In Study 1 mortality salience led Americans to give less money to foreign charities. Study 2 replicated this effect, and showed it can be eliminated by activating a generosity norm. However, people who valued money as highly important donated less money following mortality salience. Study 3 showed that following mortality salience and a fairness prime, people behaved more generously when splitting money between themselves and an anonymous partner.

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Helping Hands, Healthy Body? Oxytocin Receptor Gene and Prosocial Behavior Interact to Buffer the Association Between Stress and Physical Health

Michael Poulin & Alison Holman
Hormones and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Providing help or support to others buffers the associations between stress and physical health. We examined the function of the neurohormone oxytocin as a biological mechanism for this stress-buffering phenomenon. Participants in a longitudinal study completed a measure of charitable behavior, and over the next two years provided assessments of stressful life events and physician-diagnosed physical ailments. Results indicated that charitable behavior buffered the associations between stressful events and new-onset ailments among individuals with the AA/AG genotypes of oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) variant rs53576, but not among those with the GG genotype. These results suggest that oxytocin function may significantly affect health and may help explain the associations between prosocial behavior and health. More broadly, these findings are consistent with a role for the caregiving behavioral system in health and well-being.

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Does intranasal oxytocin promote prosocial behavior to an excluded fellow player? A randomized-controlled trial with Cyberball

Madelon Riem et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to stimulate prosocial behavior. However, recent studies indicate that adverse early caregiving experiences may moderate the positive effects of oxytocin. In this double blind randomized-controlled trial we investigated the effects of oxytocin on prosocial behavior during a virtual ball-tossing game called Cyberball. We examined the influence of oxytocin on prosocial helping behavior toward a socially excluded person who was known to the participant, taking into account early caregiving experiences and the emotional facial expression of the excluded person as potential moderators. Participants were 54 women who received a nasal spray containing either 16 IU of oxytocin or a placebo and had reported how often their mother used love withdrawal as a disciplinary strategy involving withholding love and affection after a failure or misbehavior. We found that participants compensated for other players' ostracism by throwing the ball more often toward the excluded player. Oxytocin administration further increased the number of ball throws toward the excluded person, but only in individuals who experienced low levels of maternal love withdrawal. The facial expression of the excluded person did not affect prosocial helping behavior and did not moderate the effects of oxytocin. Our findings indicate that the positive effects of oxytocin on prosocial behavior toward a victim of social exclusion are limited to individuals with supportive family backgrounds.

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Punctuated Generosity: How Mega-events and Natural Disasters Affect Corporate Philanthropy in U.S. Communities

András Tilcsik & Christopher Marquis
Administrative Science Quarterly, March 2013, Pages 111-148

Abstract:
This article focuses on geographic communities as fields in which human-made and natural events occasionally disrupt the lives of organizations. We develop an institutional perspective to unpack how and why major events within communities affect organizations in the context of corporate philanthropy. To test this framework, we examine how different types of mega-events (the Olympics, the Super Bowl, political conventions) and natural disasters (such as floods and hurricanes) affected the philanthropic spending of locally headquartered Fortune 1000 firms between 1980 and 2006. Results show that philanthropic spending fluctuated dramatically as mega-events generally led to a punctuated increase in otherwise relatively stable patterns of giving by local corporations. The impact of natural disasters depended on the severity of damage: while major disasters had a negative effect, smaller-scale disasters had a positive impact. Firms' philanthropic history and communities' intercorporate network cohesion moderated some of these effects. This study extends the institutional and community literatures by illuminating the geographic distribution of punctuating events as a central mechanism for community influences on organizations, shedding new light on the temporal dynamics of both endogenous and exogenous punctuating events and providing a more nuanced understanding of corporate-community relations.

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When Stigma-by-Association Threatens, Self-Esteem Helps: Self-Esteem Protects Volunteers in Stigmatizing Contexts

Patrick Dwyer, Mark Snyder & Allen Omoto
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, January/February 2013, Pages 88-97

Abstract:
Drawing from theory and research on self-esteem as an important coping resource, we hypothesized that higher self-esteem would protect volunteers from the pernicious effects of stigma-by-association. In a longitudinal study of AIDS volunteers, higher anticipated stigma-by-association deterred the initiation of volunteerism for people with lower self-esteem. Three months later, greater stigma-by-association was related to less contact with an HIV+client in public (relative to private) settings, but only among volunteers lower in self-esteem. Moreover, greater relative public client contact predicted less overall satisfaction, but only for volunteers with relatively lower self-esteem. Implications for coping, stigma, and volunteer organizations are discussed.

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The Impact of a Pledge Request and the Promise of Publicity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Charitable Donations

Sarah Cotterill, Peter John & Liz Richardson
Social Science Quarterly, March 2013, Pages 200-216

Objective: This study investigates whether asking people to make a pledge causes them to donate to a charitable cause and whether the promise of public recognition increases the effectiveness of the request.

Method: A randomized controlled trial in Manchester, United Kingdom, where households were sent letters asking them to donate a book for school libraries in South Africa.

Results: People who are asked to make a pledge and offered local public recognition are more likely to make a book donation than the control group. The combination of requesting a pledge and offering publicity raises book donations from 7.3 percent to 8.9 percent of households, an effect size of 22 percent. Asking people to pledge alone, without the promise of publicity has no statistically significant impact on giving.

Conclusion: Combining a pledge request and the promise of local publicity increases individual charitable donations.

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A restaurant field experiment in charitable contributions

Gary Charness & Tsz Cheung
Economics Letters, April 2013, Pages 48-49

Abstract:
The issue of how to best elicit charitable contributions has long been an important one for charitable organizations. Some recent studies have examined different schemes for eliciting contributions for public radio and maximizing revenue for commercial purposes. Our study is a pure field experiment that was conducted in a restaurant. We varied the level of suggested contribution on the jar at the cashier to see if this had an effect on the revenue received; in one condition, did not make any suggestion. We do find differences in revenue depending on the suggested amount, showing that there is scope for strategy in choosing how to appeal to the potential donors. The amount requested does affect revenue, but it is not a monotonic relationship. We also find that not naming a suggested amount fares poorly in terms of generating revenue.

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Bonobos Share with Strangers

Jingzhi Tan & Brian Hare
PLoS ONE, January 2013

Abstract:
Humans are thought to possess a unique proclivity to share with others - including strangers. This puzzling phenomenon has led many to suggest that sharing with strangers originates from human-unique language, social norms, warfare and/or cooperative breeding. However, bonobos, our closest living relative, are highly tolerant and, in the wild, are capable of having affiliative interactions with strangers. In four experiments, we therefore examined whether bonobos will voluntarily donate food to strangers. We show that bonobos will forego their own food for the benefit of interacting with a stranger. Their prosociality is in part driven by unselfish motivation, because bonobos will even help strangers acquire out-of-reach food when no desirable social interaction is possible. However, this prosociality has its limitations because bonobos will not donate food in their possession when a social interaction is not possible. These results indicate that other-regarding preferences toward strangers are not uniquely human. Moreover, language, social norms, warfare and cooperative breeding are unnecessary for the evolution of xenophilic sharing. Instead, we propose that prosociality toward strangers initially evolves due to selection for social tolerance, allowing the expansion of individual social networks. Human social norms and language may subsequently extend this ape-like social preference to the most costly contexts.

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Charitable giving as a signal of trustworthiness: Disentangling the signaling benefits of altruistic acts

Sebastian Fehrler & Wojtek Przepiorka
Evolution and Human Behavior, March 2013, Pages 139-145

Abstract:
It has been shown that psychological predispositions to benefit others can motivate human cooperation and the evolution of such social preferences can be explained with kin or multi-level selection models. It has also been shown that cooperation can evolve as a costly signal of an unobservable quality that makes a person more attractive with regard to other types of social interactions. Here we show that if a proportion of individuals with social preferences is maintained in the population through kin or multi-level selection, cooperative acts that are truly altruistic can be a costly signal of social preferences and make altruistic individuals more trustworthy interaction partners in social exchange. In a computerized laboratory experiment, we test whether altruistic behavior in the form of charitable giving is indeed correlated with trustworthiness and whether a charitable donation increases the observing agents' trust in the donor. Our results support these hypotheses and show that, apart from trust, responses to altruistic acts can have a rewarding or outcome-equalizing purpose. Our findings corroborate that the signaling benefits of altruistic acts that accrue in social exchange can ease the conditions for the evolution of social preferences.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM