Give it your best

Kevin Lewis

February 25, 2018

How Liberals and Conservatives Respond to Equality-Based and Proportionality-Based Rewards in Charity Advertising
Younghwa Lee et al.
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, forthcoming


The authors conduct two studies that show how liberals and conservatives in the United States and Korea respond to charity advertising that features equality- or proportionality-based rewards for charitable giving. The findings robustly demonstrate that in both countries, liberals respond more favorably to equality-based rewards, but conservatives respond more favorably to proportionality-based rewards. Study 1, conducted in the United States, finds that liberals perceive greater effectiveness in equality-based rewards based on random drawings, but conservatives perceive more effectiveness in proportionality-based rewards based on donation amounts. Study 2, conducted in Korea, shows that liberal (conservative) donors expect to be more (less) likely to receive rewards based on equality rather than proportionality.

Real-life helping behaviours in North America: A genome-wide association approach
Georg Primes & Martin Fieder
PLoS ONE, January 2018


Based on data from 10,713 participants of the American Health and Retirement Study we estimated heritability of helping behavior - its total variance explained by 1.2 million single nucleotide polymorphisms - to be 11%. Both, fixed models and mixed linear models identified rs11697300, an intergene variant on chromosome 20, as a candidate variant moderating this particular helping behaviour. We assume that this so far undescribed area is worth further investigation in association with human prosocial behaviour.

Good deeds gone bad: Lay theories of altruism and selfishness
Ryan Carlson & Jamil Zaki
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 2018, Pages 36-40


When people help others, they often benefit themselves as well. Do these benefits disqualify prosocial acts from being truly altruistic? Scientists and philosophers have long debated this question, but few have considered laypeople's beliefs about altruism. Here, we examine such lay theories surrounding altruism. Across two studies, observers read about agents who behaved prosocially. In some cases, agents benefitted materially, socially, or emotionally from their actions (self-oriented consequences); in other cases, they acted in order to accrue these benefits (self-oriented motives). Observers "penalized" actions that produced self-oriented consequences - rating them as less altruistic than actions involving no such benefit - unless these benefits were emotional. When agents' actions involved self-oriented motives, observers penalized them more harshly, viewing their behavior as more selfish than even clearly non-prosocial acts. These data suggest that lay theories distinguish between motives for, and "side effects" of, prosocial actions, converging with recent psychological theories of altruism.

Field study of charitable giving reveals that reciprocity decays over time
Amanda Chuan, Judd Kessler & Katherine Milkman
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 20 February 2018, Pages 1766-1771


We examine how reciprocity changes over time by studying a large quasiexperiment in the field. Specifically, we analyze administrative data from a university hospital system. The data include information about over 18,000 donation requests made by the hospital system via mail to a set of its former patients in the 4 months after their first hospital visit. We exploit quasiexperimental variation in the timing of solicitation mailings relative to patient hospital visits and find that an extra 30-day delay between the provision of medical care and a donation solicitation decreases the likelihood of a donation by 30%. Our findings have important implications for models of economic behavior, which currently fail to incorporate reciprocity's sensitivity to time. The fact that reciprocal behavior decays rapidly as time passes also suggests the importance of capitalizing quickly on opportunities to benefit from a quid pro quo.

Intuitive Donating: Testing One-Line Solicitations for $1 Donations in a Large Online Experiment
Samantha Horn & Dean Karlan
NBER Working Paper, February 2018


We partnered with a large online auction website to test differing messages' effects on the decision to donate to charity at checkout. Our setting, where impulsive decisions are likely to be driving donations, allows us to evaluate intuitive responses to messages prompting a donation. We find that shorter messages, matching grants, and descriptions of a charity's mission increase both the likelihood that a user donates, as well as the average amount donated. Conversely, displaying the impact of the donated amount, the popularity of the charity, and that a charity uses scientific evidence do not improve donation rates. These results contribute to our understanding of how framing requests drives the decision to donate and are practically relevant to the many retail sites which promote giving at point of sale.

Empathy leads to increased online charitable behaviour when time is the currency
Daniel Farrelly & Michael Bennett
Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, January/February 2018, Pages 42-46


This study shows how the empathy-altruism hypothesis can affect helping behaviour where time spent is the currency, through the novel use of a real world charity. Using an online charity task (, we show that inducing empathy and also anger cause participants to spend more time donating rice to the United Nations World Food Programme. These findings therefore support the empathy-altruism hypothesis and add to previous research that have mainly used artificial and/or hypothetical scenarios by further showing that its effects can be applied to real world scenarios where helping behaviours are beneficial.


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