Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Humanitarians, You're Not As Generous As You Think

Date:
July 27, 2007
Source:
Carnegie Mellon University
Summary:
A new study reveals that people who regard themselves as humanitarians, are even more likely than others to base donations to the poor, on whether they believe poverty is a result of bad luck or bad choices.

A new study out of Carnegie Mellon University reveals that people who regard themselves as humanitarians are even more likely than others to base donations to the poor on whether they believe poverty is a result of bad luck or bad choices.

Related Articles


The study by Christina Fong, a research scientist in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon, supports previous findings that people are more likely to give money to the poor when they believe that poverty is a result of misfortune rather than laziness. What's surprising is that this effect is largest among people who claim to have more humanitarian or egalitarian beliefs. In fact, humanitarians give no more than others when recipients are deemed to be poor because of laziness.

Fong's results, published in the July issue of the Economic Journal, are significant because altruistic behavior is not well explained by traditional economics, which assumes that self-interest is the prime motivator for human behavior.

"These findings, along with prior findings from social survey data and experiments, help economists develop more realistic models of human behavior so that they can better explain how societies deal with poverty and inequality. They imply that people may be more likely to support policies and charities that help insure people against bad luck rather than their own choices," Fong said.

"For instance, transfer payments to people with prior work histories tend to be relatively popular as do expenditures on health and education for poor children, who are too young to be held personally accountable for their poverty," she said.

Fong conducted an experiment in which subjects were given $10 and asked to decide how much, if any, to give to a real-life welfare recipient. A few days prior to the experiment, participants completed surveys about their values and beliefs, including beliefs about whether lack of effort or bad luck cause poverty. The survey also included questions designed to measure whether participants considered themselves to be humanitarians.

During the experiment, donors were randomly matched with three different welfare recipients with varying work histories and desires for full-time work. This information, combined with the participants' individual beliefs about the causes of poverty, had a major impact on giving. People who believed that their recipient was poor because of bad luck gave six and a half times as much as people who believed that their recipient was poor because of laziness.

Those who scored high on the humanitarian measure gave more money to recipients judged to be victims of bad luck than those who scored low - but the two groups made the same offers to welfare recipients judged to be lazy. Fong terms this desire to help people on the condition that they appear to deserve it "empathetic responsiveness."

"This concept blends two well-known concepts of empathy. The first is the idea that empathy is an emotion that can evoke altruistic behavior. The second is the idea that empathy is the ability to attend and respond to another being," Fong said. "Empathy in this sense may result not only in positive responses to another person, such as sympathy followed by helping behavior, but also in negative responses such as anger followed by revenge."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Mellon University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Mellon University. "Humanitarians, You're Not As Generous As You Think." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070725145722.htm>.
Carnegie Mellon University. (2007, July 27). Humanitarians, You're Not As Generous As You Think. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070725145722.htm
Carnegie Mellon University. "Humanitarians, You're Not As Generous As You Think." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070725145722.htm (accessed February 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

AP (Jan. 30, 2015) The NFL announced this week that the number of game concussions dropped by a quarter over last season. Still, the dangers of the sport still weigh on players, and parents&apos; minds. (Jan. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Researchers for the first time identified human&apos;s innate preference for associating low and high numbers with the left and right respectively in another species. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) You can elevate your mood by having a meal in a glass. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) offers the best &apos;feel good&apos; smoothies and shakes chock full of depression-relieving ingredients...including apples, berries, lemons, cucumbers, papaya, kiwi, spinach, kale, whey protein, matcha, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) According to a poll out of the U.K., eldest siblings feel more responsible and successful than their younger siblings. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins