Dr. Liat Levontin
Reaching out to others: Pro-social motivation and behavior
Charitable giving is a vital element of today’s way of life. Between 60% and 80% of U.S. households donate to more than one million charitable organizations in the United States, and it is estimated that between 1998 and 2052, people will donate between $6.6 and $27.4 trillion to these organizations (National Philanthropic Trust). While the number of charitable organizations that compete for donors’ contributions continues to increase, the economic crisis of 2008 has caused contributions to decrease over the past few years. Many donation campaigns are based on the assumption that people contribute more time and money to individuals in need than to organizations since empathy is among the strongest motivations for donations. If this is true, then charitable organizations cannot effectively raise money on a regular basis, focusing on the organization's ongoing general activity. In the first part of the talk I will describe the donation target effect and draw the conditions upon which donation appeals that focus on the organization and thus do not trigger empathy can effectively motivate a donation. Specifically, I will show that willingness to donate is dependent on the donor’s psychological distance from the donation target, and discuss the implications of these findings Since empathy is the mechanism that encourages donations only in some of the occasions, we pursued a more general mechanism that motivates consumers to donate. Although it is reasonable to assume that those who have more – give more, I will show that donation giving does not necessarily stem from consumer's actual resources, but rather from their psychological perception of their resources. Specifically I will show that people's psychological perception of resource deficiency or excess can be activated by simple acts of emptying or filling and in return curb or encourage resource expenditure behaviors (e.g., donations to charities).