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Are you worthy of my help? An experiment in worthiness framing on charitable donations

Rhosyn A Almond
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Rhosyn A Almond: School of Economics and Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science, University of East Anglia, Norwich

No 21-03, Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) from School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Abstract: We investigate the effect of worthiness framing on donation behaviour – both the propensity to donate and magnitude of donation. People prefer to donate to ‘worthy’ causes. Prosocial behaviour is strongly influenced by value judgements based on the individual’s perception of a situation and are therefore highly context-dependent. In this experiment, the target of manipulation is the context of a donation decision. We invited participants to donate to the local food bank and used selected questions from the World Values Survey to measure perceptions about the context of inequality. We find a treatment effect of worthiness framing– but only for those with certain beliefs about the context of inequality. We use hardworking and unlucky frames to highlight the worthiness of the recipient group and find this framing is only effective in increasing donations if it challenges an individual’s prior beliefs. Framing a recipient as worthy only increases donations from those whose beliefs suggest they consider the poor less worthy.

Keywords: prosocial behaviour; charity; worthiness; framing; deservingness (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp and nep-soc
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