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Kevin Lewis

July 30, 2017

Getting the Rich and Powerful to Give
Judd Kessler, Katherine Milkman & Yiwei Zhang
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, June 2017

What motivates the rich and powerful to exhibit generosity? We explore this important question in a large field experiment. We solicit donations from 32,174 alumni of an Ivy League university, including thousands of rich and powerful alumni. Consistent with past psychology research, we find that the rich and powerful respond dramatically, and differently than others, to being given a sense of agency over the use of donated funds. Gifts from rich and powerful alumni increase by 200-300 percent when they are given a sense of agency. Results suggest that motivating the rich and powerful to act may require tailored interventions.

Demotivating incentives and motivation crowding out in charitable giving
Matthew Chao
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, 11 July 2017, Pages 7301–7306

Research has shown that extrinsic incentives can crowd out intrinsic motivation in many contexts. Despite this, many nonprofits offer conditional thank-you gifts, such as mugs or tote bags, in exchange for donations. In collaboration with a nonprofit, this study implements a direct mail field experiment and demonstrates that thank-you gifts reduced donation rates in a fundraising campaign. Attention-based multiattribute choice models suggest that this is because prospective donors shift attention to the salient gift offer, causing them to underweight less salient intrinsic motives. Attention to the gift may also cause individuals to adopt a more cost–benefit mindset, further de-emphasizing intrinsic motives. Consistent with these hypotheses, crowding out was driven by those who donated higher amounts in the previous year (i.e., those who likely had higher intrinsic motivation). In a complementary online experiment, thank-you gifts also reduced donation rates but only when the gift was visually salient. This corroborates the mediating role of attention in crowding out. Taken together, the laboratory and field results demonstrate that this fundraising technique can be demotivating in some contexts and that this may occur through an attention-based mechanism.

Sentimental Value and Gift Giving: Givers' Fears of Getting It Wrong Prevents Them from Getting It Right
Julian Givi & Jeff Galak
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Sentimental value is the value derived from an emotionally-laden item's associations with significant others, or special events or times in one's life. The present research demonstrates that when faced with the choice between sentimentally valuable gifts and gifts with superficial attributes that match the preferences of the recipient, givers give the latter much more often than recipients would prefer to receive such gifts. This asymmetry appears to be driven by givers feeling relatively certain that preference-matching gifts will be well-liked by recipients, but relatively uncertain that the same is true for sentimentally valuable gifts. Three studies demonstrate this gift-giving mismatch and validate the proposed mechanism across a variety of gift-giving occasions and giver-receiver relationship types. The contribution of these findings to the gift-giving literature, as well as directions for future research, are discussed.

Mere Gifting: Liking a Gift More Because It Is Shared
Evan Polman & Sam Maglio
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

We investigated a type of mere similarity that describes owning the same item as someone else. Moreover, we examined this mere similarity in a gift-giving context, whereby givers gift something that they also buy for themselves (a behavior we call “companionizing”). Using a Heiderian account of balancing unit-sentiment relations, we tested whether gift recipients like gifts more when gifts are companionized. Akin to mere ownership, which describes people liking their possessions more merely because they own them, we tested a complementary prediction: whether people like their possessions more merely because others own them too. Thus, in a departure from previous work, we examined a type of similarity based on two people sharing the same material item. We find that this type of sharing causes gift recipients to like their gifts more, and feel closer to gift givers.

The Helping Behavior Helps Lighten Physical Burden
Xilin Li & Xiaofei Xie
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

It is often believed that helping behaviors benefit the recipients at the expense of the performers. However, we propose that costly helping behaviors could alleviate feelings of physical burden experienced by the performers. In support of the proposal, we found in five studies that both imaginary and real helping behaviors led the performers to perceive physically challenging tasks as less demanding (Studies 1, 2, 3, 5), such as perceiving a steep mountain road as less steep (Study 2), a heavy carton as lighter (Study 4), and a long path as shorter (Study 5). These results challenge the conventional wisdom that helping behaviors always come at the cost of the helper and corroborate a growing body of literature showing that helping others could benefit the performer.

Giving, Fast and Slow: Reflection Increases Costly (but Not Uncostly) Charitable Giving
Kellen Mrkva
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making
, forthcoming

Are people intuitively generous or stingy? Does reflection make people more willing to give generous amounts to charity? Findings across the literature are mixed, with many studies finding no clear relationship between reflection and charitable giving (e.g., Hauge, Brekke, Johansson, Johansson-Stenman, & Svedsäter, 2016; Tinghög et al., 2016), while others find that reflection negatively affects giving (e.g., Small, Loewenstein, & Slovic, 2007), and still others find that reflection is positively associated with giving (e.g., Lohse, Goeschl, & Diederich, 2014). I demonstrate that reflection consistently increases costly giving to charity. In Study 1, people were initially reluctant to give costly amounts of money to charity, but those who reflected about the decision were more willing to give. In Studies 2–3, I isolated the role of costly stakes by randomly assigning people to either an uncostly donation ($0.40) or costly donation condition (e.g., $100), and randomly assigning them to decide under time pressure or after reflecting. Reflection increased their willingness to give costly amounts, but did not influence their willingness to give uncostly amounts. Similarly, the relationship between decision time and giving was positive when the stakes were costly but was relatively flat when the stakes were uncostly (Study 4).

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