Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When charitable acts are 'tainted' by personal gain

Date:
January 9, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
We tend to perceive a person's charitable efforts as less moral if the do-gooder reaps a reward from the effort, according to new research.

We tend to perceive a person's charitable efforts as less moral if the do-gooder reaps a reward from the effort, according to new research.

This phenomenon -- which researchers call the "tainted-altruism effect" -- suggests that charity in conjunction with self-interested behavior is viewed less favorably because we tend to think that the person could have given everything to charity without taking a cut for themselves.

"We are just starting to learn more about how people evaluate the altruistic behavior of others," explains Yale University researcher George Newman. "This work suggests that people may react very negatively to charitable initiatives that are perceived to be in some way 'inauthentic.'"

The new findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

In one study, Newman and colleague Daylian Cain instructed participants to read scenarios in which a man was trying to gain a woman's affection by volunteering at her workplace. Some participants read that she worked at a homeless shelter, while others read that she worked at a coffee shop. A third group of participants read both scenarios.

In line with the tainted-altruism hypothesis, participants who read that the man volunteered at the homeless shelter rated him as less moral, less ethical, and his actions as no more beneficial to society than the participants who read that he volunteered at the coffee shop.

Participants who read both the scenarios, however, seemed to realize that doing some good by volunteering at the homeless shelter was better than doing no good at all: They rated the man as equally moral in both scenarios.

Several other experiments supported these results, showing that participants viewed making a profit from a charitable initiative as less moral than making a profit from a business venture, and they were significantly less likely to support that charity as a result. Participants only realized the inconsistency in this logic when they were reminded that the person in question didn't have to contribute to charity at all.

In their final experiment, the researchers tested the tainted-altruism effect with the Gap (RED) campaign, a real-world initiative that donates 50% of profits from certain products purchased at Gap clothing stores to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria. This time, participants rated the company poorly if they were reminded that Gap keeps the other 50% of profits. However, those who were asked to further consider that Gap didn't have to donate any money at all realized the flawed logic and rated them more highly.

"We found evidence that 'tainted' charity is seen as worse than doing no good at all," Newman says. "Importantly, this effect can be framed away and appears to be pretty malleable."

The researchers believe that finding ways to reduce the tainted-altruism bias might lead to more charitable donations and could help to boost the public image of philanthropic organizations and individuals.

"In some cases, public assessments of charitable actions as genuine may trump any actual benefits realized from those efforts," they conclude.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. E. Newman, D. M. Cain. Tainted Altruism: When Doing Some Good Is Evaluated as Worse Than Doing No Good at All. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613504785

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "When charitable acts are 'tainted' by personal gain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109132646.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, January 9). When charitable acts are 'tainted' by personal gain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109132646.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "When charitable acts are 'tainted' by personal gain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109132646.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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