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Cheapened altruism: Discounting personally affected prosocial actors


  • Lin-Healy, Fern
  • Small, Deborah A.


Are charitable donors always perceived as charitable? Three studies suggest that although having a personal connection to a cause motivates much charitable giving, donors who have been personally affected by the target cause are given less “credit” for their donations, i.e., are perceived as less intrinsically charitable. These donors are perceived as having selfish motivations even when they have nothing economic or social to gain from the donation. More specifically, personally-affected donors are perceived as driven by emotional selfishness, or a desire to improve their own hedonic state rather a desire to improve the welfare of others, which lessens the charitable credit that they receive. In addition, although donors who have been personally affected by the target cause are seen as less charitable, they are perceived more favorably in other ways (e.g., more loyal).

Suggested Citation

  • Lin-Healy, Fern & Small, Deborah A., 2012. "Cheapened altruism: Discounting personally affected prosocial actors," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 117(2), pages 269-274.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:117:y:2012:i:2:p:269-274
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.11.006

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dan Ariely & Anat Bracha & Stephan Meier, 2009. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(1), pages 544-555, March.
    2. Briers, Barbara & Pandelaere, Mario & Warlop, Luk, 2007. "Adding exchange to charity: A reference price explanation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 15-30, January.
    3. Barbara Briers & M. Pandelaere & L. Warlop, 2007. "Adding exchange to charity: a reference price explanation," Post-Print halshs-00126759, HAL.
    4. Rachel Croson & Jen Shang, 2006. "The impact of social comparisons on nonprofit fundraising," Natural Field Experiments 00321, The Field Experiments Website.
    5. Kogut, Tehila & Ritov, Ilana, 2005. "The singularity effect of identified victims in separate and joint evaluations," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 106-116, July.
    6. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-477, June.
    7. Briers, B.M.E. & Pandelaere, M. & Warlop, L., 2007. "Adding exchange to charity : A reference price explanation," Other publications TiSEM 7b0069ad-8251-4e7d-82ba-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    8. Liu, Wendy & Aaker, Jennifer L., 2008. "The Happiness of Giving: The Time-Ask Effect," Research Papers 1998, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zlatev, Julian J. & Miller, Dale T., 2016. "Selfishly benevolent or benevolently selfish: When self-interest undermines versus promotes prosocial behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 112-122.


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