There have been many studies recently that strive to determine the root cause and psychology behind the act of charitable giving. People's attitudes towards altruism and their perceived social responsibility are affected so many different environmental and emotional factors, it's often difficult to ascertain their precise reasoning. But, thanks to a series of studies published by the Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, we're able to get an insight into the complex motivations people have when engaging in a philanthropic or charitable act. However, it's not as common sense-based as you'd think. Here are three surprising facts discovered through the course of these studies:
More people pay more and produce a greater profit when they're operating under a 'Pay What You Want' scheme
According to a field study conducted in 2010 and co-authored by Professor Leif Nelson at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, more profit per unit is produced if people are allowed to decide how much they want to pay for goods or services. The study inolved presenting 28,224 participants with a picture postcard that cost a pre-determined $12.95. Despite being told a significant portion of the product would go to a charity, only a few people actually purchased the item, yielding a tiny profit of just 6 cents per visitor. However, when the postcard was sold under a pay-as-you-can method, although the average price paid was considerably lower (an average of $5.33 per person), the amount of people who participated meant that the profit margin was nearly twenty cents to the charity. Interestingly, when people were told that none of the proceeds would go to charity,the amount they chose to pay decreased dramatically. So it appears that a combination of asserting a social responsibility but also giving the donor complete autonomy, it produces the greatest amount of profit and all parties benefit.
People From Lower Incomes Are More Generous Than People With High Incomes
In the findings of a paper entitled “Having Less, Giving More: The Influence of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior” written by a scientific team operating out of University of Toronto and UC Berkeley, it was discovered that people who perceived themselves as of a 'lower class status' were persistently more altruistic in terms of their dealing with charitable giving and compassionate acts pertaining to other volunteers then those who perceived themselves as of a 'higher class status.' This is perhaps not so surprising but what is interesting is that the altruism that both parties displayed was directly linked to the concept of compassion and the participants ability to feel concern for their fellow man. When the higher class participants were experimentally induced to feel compassion by watching a film on child poverty, their prosocial behaviour changed and their actions and decisions fell in line with the lower class participants' actions.
Literally Being on Higher Ground Encourages More Enthusiastic Giving
Occasionally, there are metaphors that are generally accepted across a variety of different cultures and the notion of being 'on higher ground' being associated with a generosity of spirit is one of them. In a series of fascinating studies conducted by a group of social scientists at the Universities of North Carolina and Michigan, it was discovered that in a survey of shoppers who were offered the chance to donate to the Salvation Army, that the people who had just disembarked the upwards escalator donated in significantly larger quantities than those who had travelled on the downward escalator. In another study, participants were offered the chance to pour as much as they wanted of an unpleasantly potent hot sauce into a cup who another volunteer to drink. Participants who were onstage (the upper level) persistently allocated a smaller quantity of sauce then the participants in the orchestra (at a much lower elevation). This demonstrated that the more physically elevated the volunteer, the more likely they were to exhibit compassion for their fellow man. Perhaps there is something to Feng Shui after all!
Citations: Photo credit - ryantron
Barbara Pelvin is an author, speaker and blogs about social issues for Third Sector