Anything to help

Kevin Lewis

June 18, 2017

Effect of media presentations on willingness to commit to organ donation
Inbal Harel et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 May 2017, Pages 5159–5164


We examine how presentations of organ donation cases in the media may affect people's willingness to sign organ donation commitment cards, donate the organs of a deceased relative, support the transition to an “opt-out” policy, or donate a kidney while alive. We found that providing identifying information about the prospective recipient (whose life was saved by the donation) increased the participants’ willingness to commit to organ donation themselves, donate the organs of a deceased relative, or support a transition to an “opt-out” policy. Conversely, identifying the deceased donor tended to induce thoughts of death rather than about saving lives, resulting in fewer participants willing to donate organs or support measures that facilitated organ donation. A study of online news revealed that identification of the donor is significantly more common than identification of the recipient in the coverage of organ donation cases — with possibly adverse effects on the incidence of organ donations.

Sharing genes fosters identity fusion and altruism
Alexandra Vázquez et al.
Self and Identity, forthcoming


Researchers have shown that the more genes twins share, the more they care about one another. Here, we examine a psychological mediator of such genetic influences, “identity fusion” (a visceral sense of oneness with them). Results supported this hypothesis. Relative to dizygotic twins, monozygotic twins reported stronger fusion and elevated desire to have contact and share experiences with their twin (Study 1), to forgive and grant favors to their twin after being disappointed by him/her (Study 2), and willingness to make sacrifices for their twin (Study 3). Fusion with the twin mediated the impact of zygosity on these outcomes. These findings demonstrate that genetic relatedness fosters a powerful feeling of union with one’s twin that predicts sharing, tolerance, and self-sacrificial behavior toward him or her.

Holding Your Flag: The Effects of Exposure to a Regional Symbol on People's Behavior
Nicolas Guéguen, Angélique Martin & Jordy Stefan
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming


Research has shown that exposure to the national flag alters people's behavior and political and intergroup judgments. In several field studies conducted in an area of France with a strong regional identity, we examined the effect of the presence of the regional flag vs the national flag vs no flag on behaviors. Various situations (e.g., money solicitation, implicit helping behavior, food tasting) were tested in Brittany, on the French west Atlantic coast. Car drivers, passersby in the street, patrons in bakeries were exposed to no flag vs the French flag vs the Brittany flag held by requesters or presented on a product or on a car. Findings showed that the regional flag increased helping behavior dramatically. Other studies also revealed that the presence of the Brittany flag reduced aggressiveness and influenced preference for food products. The power of a flag as a symbol that could increase in-group membership is discussed.

Conforming Conservatives: How Salient Social Identities Can Increase Donations
Andrew Kaikati et al.
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming


This research considers how common perceptions of liberals' generosity can be harnessed for increasing donations. Given conservatives' greater tendency to conform to group norms than liberals, we theorize that conformity tendencies can increase donations by conservatives when accountable to a liberal audience who share a salient identity. Specifically, conservatives donate more when they are accountable to a liberal audience with whom they have a salient shared identity (Study 1) due to their motivation for social approval (Studies 3 and 4). However, if the donation context activates political identity (Studies 2 and 3) or if the unifying social identity is not salient (Study 4), accountability does not impact donation decisions. Notably, liberals do not alter their behavior, ruling out alternative explanations for the pattern of conformity. This research provides insight into the distinct role of accountability for conservatives and importance of audience characteristics for conformity. Though both liberals and conservatives can be generous, this research demonstrates how conformity can be used to increase charitable giving among conservatives.

Charitable Giving, Emotions, and the Default Effect
Lenka Fiala & Charles Noussair
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming


We report an experiment to study the effect of defaults on charitable giving. In three different treatments, participants face varying default levels of donation. In three other treatments that are paired with the first three, they receive the same defaults, but are informed that defaults are thought to have an effect on their donation decisions. The emotional state of all individuals is monitored throughout the sessions using Facereading software, and some participants are required to report their emotional state after the donation decision. We find that the level at which a default is set has no effect on donations, and informing individuals of the possible impact of defaults also has no effect. Individuals who are happier and in a more positive overall emotional state donate more. Donors experience a negative change in the valence of their emotional state subsequent to donating, when valence is measured with Facereading software. This contrasts with the self-report data, in which donating correlates with a more positive reported subsequent emotional state.

Helping made easy: Ease of argument generation enhances intentions to help
Barbara Müller et al.
Social Psychology, March/April 2017, Pages 113-121


Previous work has shown that self-generating arguments is more persuasive than reading arguments provided by others, particularly if self-generation feels easy. The present study replicates and extends these findings by providing evidence for fluency effects on behavioral intention in the realm of helping. In two studies, participants were instructed to either self-generate or read two versus ten arguments about why it is good to help. Subsequently, a confederate asked them for help. Results show that self-generating few arguments is more effective than generating many arguments. While this pattern reverses for reading arguments, easy self-generation is the most effective strategy compared to all other conditions. These results have important implications for fostering behavioral change in all areas of life.

Self-protection promotes altruism
Eugene Chan
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming


Self-protection tendencies allowed our human ancestors to survive and thrive. In three experiments, we find that individuals who have a salient self-protection motive are more altruistic to others, such as by helping them out or offering them more money in the dictator game paradigm. Self-protecting individuals desire to “bind together” as there is “safety in numbers”, and being altruistic to others should be one (but not the only) way to achieve this goal. Consistent with this reasoning, we find across three behavioral experiments using both non-monetary (Experiment 1) and monetary altruistic contexts (Experiments 2–3) that self-protecting individuals are more altruistic when the altruism is not anonymous (Experiment 1) and when they have the reasonable expectation of future interaction with the recipient (Experiment 2), both of which are situations that should increase affiliation. The effect attenuates when altruism does not help self-protecting individuals, such as when money is donated to impersonal organizations rather than individuals (Experiment 3). We finally discuss the theoretical contributions as well as limitations of our work.

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