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The (un)compromise effect: How suggested alternatives can promote active choice

Mathias Ekström

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), 2021, vol. 90, issue C

Abstract: In a large-scale field experiment, I study the impact of intermediate suggested donations, and the absence of them, on charitable giving. In line with a compromise effect, transforming $100 from the highest suggested donation to the intermediate suggested donation tripled the likelihood to donate $100, and increased the average donation. However, it was the introduction of a higher maximum suggestion—not the change in the intermediate suggestion per se—that was decisive: Faced with only the two extreme suggested donations, people turned to the write in category to select an individual compromise donation. I refer to this finding as the (un)compromise effect, because it highlights that people gravitate towards compromise alternatives also in the explicit absence of them. A follow-up experiment confirms that time pressure moderates the (un)compromise effect, which suggests that the underlying mechanism is cognitive rather than an instinctive response to avoid extreme alternatives. Overall, the study adds to our understanding of why people prefer intermediate options in general, and how suggested donations shape public good contributions in particular.

Keywords: Charitable giving; Compromise effect; Field experiment; Nudging; Suggested alternatives (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2020.101639

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