Research Highlights

Impediments to Effective Altruism: The Role of Subjective Preferences in Charitable Giving

By Alixandra Barasch, Jonathan Berman, Emma E. Levine and Deborah Small

Alixandra Barasch
When choosing which charities to donate to, individuals will prioritize personal preferences, even when presented with more effective donation alternatives, according to new joint research from faculty at the London Business School, NYU Stern School of Business, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania.
 
The authors find:
  • Presenting objective information on the effectiveness of donating to a particular charity over another has only a muted impact—much less than one would expect.
  • People do use effectiveness information under certain conditions: 1) when choosing which charities to donate to from a position of responsibility such as a job-related role and 2) when choosing between charities all supporting the same cause. 
This research suggests that the recent trend in measuring and publicizing effectiveness information may not have as a strong of an impact as hoped. That is, people choose to donate to the causes that they subjectively and selfishly prefer rather than those that do the most good.
 
The paper, titled “Impediments to Effective Altruism: The Role of Subjective Preferences in Charitable Giving,” is forthcoming in Psychological Science and now available online.

AUTHORS
  • Jonathan Berman, Assistant Professor of Marketing, London Business School;
  • Alixandra Barasch, Assistant Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern School of Business;
  • Emma E. Levine, Assistant Professor of Behavior Sciences and William S. Fishman Faculty Scholar, University of Chicago Booth School of Business;
  • Deborah Small, Laura and John J. Pomerantz Professor of Marketing and Psychology, University of Pennsylvania.