In a sample of almost 1000 participants the researchers found that people with a pro-social personality gave more money to charities and other noble causes. For instance, with donations to ‘third world organisations’, 52% of people with a pro-social personality gave money, compared to 42% of people with an individualistic personality and only 21% of people with a competitive personality.
Overall pro-socials donate more to all kinds of charitable and noble organisations – including health, environmental, charity, education/research and arts/culture organisations – than individualists and competitors (the only exception being donations to local community and church groups).
The team’s findings raise the possibility that donations may be enhanced not only by appeals emphasising empathy (eg concerns for other’s well-being) but also by appeals emphasising fairness (eg everyone deserves an equal chance in life).
Professor Van Vugt, an expert on altruism and co-author of a recently published text Applying Social Psychology: From Problems to Solutions [London: Sage, 2007], said: ‘We hope that fundraising organisations, such as those dedicated to helping the poor and the ill, particularly during humanitarian crises or at critical times of the year, such as winter and Christmas, will benefit from this research. Not everyone is a Scrooge and there are many Samaritans around. The trick is to get people with individualistic and competitive personalities to donate more to noble causes, perhaps by offering them small gifts.’
From games to giving: social vale orientation predicts donations to noble causes (Paul Van Lange; VU University, Amsterdam; Rene Bekkers; University of Utrecht; Theo Schuyt; VU University, Amsterdam; Mark Van Vugt; University of Kent) is published in Basic and applied social psychology, 29(4), 375-384.
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