The social psychology of charitable giving: determinants of individual donation decisions in intergroup contexts

Trevor James

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Across nine studies, donation decisions towards charitable causes were investigated under a salient group membership. In studies 1 to 3, participants were told of a disaster that had occurred and a novel contribution was made by experimentally varying perpetrator group membership to investigate an ingroup bias, i.e. whether more donations would be associated when the disaster was supposedly caused by an ingroup member. In study 4, perpetrator group membership and victim group membership were manipulated together in the same design to demonstrate a novel interaction. Overall, the results indicated that perpetrator group membership can play an important role in affecting donation decisions; and moreover, that perpetrator groups can interact with victim groups to amplify prosociality towards ingroup members. In study 5, cognitive reasoning styles were primed in order to investigate helping towards ingroup victims; while in study 6, reasoning style was primed alongside an anonymity manipulation to investigate helping towards outgroup victims. The results suggested an original finding; that an analytical reasoning style can in some cases result in increased prosociality towards victims that are presented as a statistical number. Studies 7 to 9 manipulated the facial attractiveness of the victim in order to investigate donation decisions towards ingroup/outgroup members. There was some evidence that physical appearance can affect donation decisions and also interact with victim group membership. Overall, the findings demonstrate the importance of considering intergroup processes in a charitable context, through selective emphasis of salient group memberships.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Zagefka, Hanna, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


  • charitable giving
  • intergroup helping
  • perpetrator groups
  • ingroup helping
  • outgroup helping
  • national identity

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