Avoiding The Ask: A Field Experiment On Altruism, Empathy, And Charitable Giving

Andreoni, James; Rao, Justin M.; Trachtman, Hannah, (2017). Avoiding The Ask: A Field Experiment On Altruism, Empathy, And Charitable Giving. Journal Of Political Economy, 125, 3, 625–653.

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Type of evidence: Field-exp-charity

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In a randomized natural field experiment (n = 8,831), Salvation Army solicitors were stationed sometimes at one and sometimes at both of two main entrances to a supermarket. This gave some shoppers an easy way to avoid requests to donate. Solicitors were either silent and simply rang a bell as shoppers passed or made eye contact and asked shoppers to “please give today”. Researchers found that verbally asking people to give dramatically raised participation rates and increased the total amount donated by more than 50%. However, the direct ask also led a third of shoppers to avoid solicitors altogether by using other entrances. Evidence suggests that “avoiders” are shielding themselves from emotion-based impulses to give and the guilt associated with not giving, revealing a sophisticated understanding of empathy and altruism rather than callousness or selfishness


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This paper has been added by David Reinstein

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