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Avoiding The Ask: A Field Experiment on Altruism, Empathy, and Charitable Giving

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  • James Andreoni
  • Justin M. Rao
  • Hannah Trachtman

Abstract

What triggers giving? We explore this in a randomized natural field experiment during the Salvation Army's annual campaign. Solicitors were at one or both of two main entrances to a supermarket, making the solicitation either easy or difficult to avoid. Additionally, solicitors were either silent, or asked "please give" to passersby. We observed over 17,000 passings over four days, and found dramatic avoidance of the solicitors, but only during a direct ask. Furthermore, asking increased donations 75%. Across all conditions, seeking the solicitor was exceedingly rare. The results do not support static views of altruism, such as inequity aversion, and instead highlight the importance of social cues and psychological features of the giver-receiver interaction. We argue that avoidance could evidence a lack of altruism or self-control strategy to deal with empathic reflexes to give.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17648.

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Date of creation: Dec 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17648

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  4. Nicholas Bardsley, 2008. "Dictator game giving: altruism or artefact?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 122-133, June.
  5. Ozdenoren, Emre & Salant, Stephen & Silverman, Dan, 2010. "Willpower and the Optimal Control of Visceral Urges," Discussion Papers dp-10-35, Resources For the Future.
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  8. Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier, 2009. "Testing for Altruism and Social Pressure in Charitable Giving," NBER Working Papers 15629, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Erte Xiao & Daniel Houser, 2005. "Emotion expression in human punishment behavior," Experimental 0504003, EconWPA, revised 18 May 2005.
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Cited by:
  1. Tonin, Mirco & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2012. "Social Incentives Matter: Evidence from an Online Real Effort Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 6716, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Tobias Regner & Gerhard Riener, 2013. "Voluntary Payments, Privacy and Social Pressure on the Internet: A Natural Field Experiment," Jena Economic Research Papers 2013-032, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.
  3. Greenberg, Adam Eric, 2014. "On the complementarity of prosocial norms: The case of restaurant tipping during the holidays," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 103-112.
  4. Lotz, Sebastian & Schlösser, Thomas & Cain, Daylian M. & Fetchenhauer, Detlef, 2013. "The (in)stability of social preferences: Using justice sensitivity to predict when altruism collapses," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 141-148.
  5. David Fielding & Stephen Knowles, 2013. "Can You Spare Some Change For Charity? Experimental Evidence On Verbal Cues And Loose Change Effects In A Dictator Game," Working Papers 1318, University of Otago, Department of Economics, revised Nov 2013.
  6. David Johnson & Sebastian Goerg & Jonathan Rogers, 2014. "Can't Touch This! Similarity And The Willingness to Keep "Dirty Money"," Working Papers 2014-43, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, revised 20 Mar 2014.
  7. Sebastian J. Goerg & David B. Johnson & Jonathan D. Rogers, 2014. "Can't Touch This! Similarity And The Willingness to Keep "Dirty Money"," Working Papers wp2014_03_01, Department of Economics, Florida State University.

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