Engaging charitable giving: The motivational force of narrative versus philosophical argument

Academic Article


  • Are philosophical arguments as effective as narratives in influencing charitable giving and attitudes toward it? In four experiments, we exposed online research participants to either philosophical arguments in favor of charitable giving, a narrative about a child whose life was improved by charitable donations, both the narrative and the argument, or a control text (a passage from a middle school physics text or a description of charitable organizations). Participants then expressed their attitudes toward charitable giving and were either asked how much they would hypothetically donate if given $10 (Experiment 1) or told they had a 10% chance of winning $10 and given the opportunity to donate from their potential winnings (Experiments 2–4). Across the four experiments, participants in all of the narrative conditions and in some of the argument conditions tended to express more positive attitudes toward charitable giving and donated about $1 more on average than did participants in the control conditions. These effects appear to have been mediated by the “narrative transportation” scale, which suggests that appeals to donate can be effective if they engage participants’ emotions, imagery, and interest.
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    Author List

  • Schwitzgebel E; McVey C; May J