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Numeracy as a precursor to pro-social behavior: The impact of numeracy and presentation format on the cognitive mechanisms underlying donation decisions

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  • Stephan Dickert
  • Janet Kleber
  • Ellen Peters
  • Paul Slovic

Abstract

Donation requests often convey numerical information about the people in need. In two studies we investigated the effects of numeracy and presentation format on the underlying affective and cognitive mechanisms of donation decisions. In Study 1, participants were presented with information about a victim in need, either in a frequency format or in a percentage format. In Study 2, we manipulated the identifiability and number of target victims. Our results demonstrate that donations of individuals lower in numeracy were more susceptible to changes in numeric presentation format than those higher in numeracy. Importantly, the underlying mechanisms for donations differed by numeracy. Whereas the mental image of the victim influenced donation decisions of less numerate people only, the estimated impact of a donation was positively correlated with donation amounts for both more and less numerate individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephan Dickert & Janet Kleber & Ellen Peters & Paul Slovic, 2011. "Numeracy as a precursor to pro-social behavior: The impact of numeracy and presentation format on the cognitive mechanisms underlying donation decisions," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(7), pages 638-650, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:6:y:2011:i:7:p:638-650
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Daniel Vastfjall & Ellen Peters & Paul Slovic, 2008. "Affect, risk perception and future optimism after the tsunami disaster," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, pages 64-72, January.
    2. Robin Hogarth & Emre Soyer, 2010. "The size and distribution of donations: Effects of numbers of potential recipients," Economics Working Papers 1246, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    3. Gong, Min & Baron, Jonathan, 2011. "The generality of the emotion effect on magnitude sensitivity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 17-24, February.
    4. Stephan Dickert & Paul Slovic, 2009. "Attentional mechanisms in the generation of sympathy," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(4), pages 297-306, June.
    5. Baron, Jonathan, 1997. "Confusion of Relative and Absolute Risk in Valuation," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 301-309, May-June.
    6. Emre Soyer & Robin M. Hogarth, 2011. "The size and distribution of donations: Effects of number of recipients," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(7), pages 616-628, October.
    7. Childers, Terry L & Houston, Michael J & Heckler, Susan E, 1985. " Measurement of Individual Differences in Visual versus Verbal Information Processing," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 125-134, September.
    8. Fetherstonhaugh, David & Slovic, Paul & Johnson, Stephen & Friedrich, James, 1997. "Insensitivity to the Value of Human Life: A Study of Psychophysical Numbing," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 283-300, May-June.
    9. Ellen Peters & Paul Slovic & Daniel Vastfjall & C. K. Mertz, 2008. "Intuitive numbers guide decisions," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3(8), pages 619-635, December.
    10. Gretchen B. Chapman & Jingjing Liu, 2009. "Numeracy, frequency, and Bayesian reasoning," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(1), pages 34-40, February.
    11. Slovic, Paul & Finucane, Melissa & Peters, Ellen & MacGregor, Donald G., 2002. "Rational actors or rational fools: implications of the affect heuristic for behavioral economics," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 329-342.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Nathaniel J.S. Ashby & Lukasz Walasek & Andreas Glöckner, 2015. "The effect of consumer ratings and attentional allocation on product valuations," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 10(2), pages 172-184, March.
    2. Emre Soyer & Robin M. Hogarth, 2011. "The size and distribution of donations: Effects of number of recipients," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(7), pages 616-628, October.
    3. repec:kap:jcopol:v:40:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10603-017-9361-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Arvid Erlandsson & Fredrik Björklund & Martin Bäckström, 2017. "Choice-justifications after allocating resources in helping dilemmas," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 12(1), pages 60-80, January.
    5. Erlandsson, Arvid & Björklund, Fredrik & Bäckström, Martin, 2015. "Emotional reactions, perceived impact and perceived responsibility mediate the identifiable victim effect, proportion dominance effect and in-group effect respectively," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 1-14.

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    Keywords

    donation decisions; numeracy; mental images; affect.;

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