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In the "I" of the storm: Shared initials increase disaster donations


  • Jesse Chandler
  • Tiffany M. Griffin
  • Nicholas Sorensen


People prefer their own initials to other letters, influencing preferences in many domains. The ``name letter effect'' (Nuttin, 1987) may not apply to negatively valenced targets if people are motivated to downplay or distance themselves from negative targets associated with the self, as previous research has shown (e.g., Finch \& Cialdini, 1989). In the current research we examine the relationship between same initial preferences and negatively valenced stimuli. Specifically, we examined donations to disaster relief after seven major hurricanes to test the influence of the name letter effect with negatively valenced targets. Individuals who shared an initial with the hurricane name were overrepresented among hurricane relief donors relative to the baseline distribution of initials in the donor population. This finding suggests that people may seek to ameliorate the negative effects of a disaster when there are shared characteristics between the disaster and the self.

Suggested Citation

  • Jesse Chandler & Tiffany M. Griffin & Nicholas Sorensen, 2008. "In the "I" of the storm: Shared initials increase disaster donations," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, pages 404-410, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:3:y:2008:i::p:404-410

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. C. Miguel Brendl & Amitava Chattopadhyay & Brett W. Pelham & Mauricio Carvallo, 2005. "Name Letter Branding: Valence Transfers When Product Specific Needs Are Active," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(3), pages 405-415, December.
    2. David Strömberg, 2007. "Natural Disasters, Economic Development, and Humanitarian Aid," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 199-222, Summer.
    3. Harbaugh, William T., 1998. "What do donations buy?: A model of philanthropy based on prestige and warm glow," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 269-284, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Daniel L. & Prescott, J.J., 2016. "Implicit Egoism in Sentencing Decisions: First Letter Name Effects with Randomly Assigned Defendants," IAST Working Papers 16-56, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).


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