Is pure altruism irrational

The psychology of giving

Individual donation obstacles

Overstrained by the extent

In an experiment in the USA, subjects were divided into three groups and received information about an organization that helps children in the USA and around the world.

The first group received only general information such as: "Food shortages in Malawi affect more than three million children."

The second group saw a picture of a young Malawian girl named Rokia and was told that the donation could change their lives for the better.

The result was that the second group donated significantly more than the group that received only general and statistical information.

A third group received both general and Rokia information. They gave more than group 1 but less than group 2.

Once again it was confirmed that we donate significantly less if we are only confronted with numbers and statistics.

It's too far away

It is no secret that we care about the people we are close to. So it's not surprising that we are more affected by tragedies the closer they are to us spatially.

For example, the American people donated $ 1.54 billion to the 2004 tsunami, less than a quarter of the $ 6.5 billion donated in America to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Despite the fact that 1,600 people died in the hurricane disaster, while the 2004 tsunami killed 220,000.

This fact was much easier to digest before the advent of digital communication. But at a time when we can receive images from all over the world within seconds, this is a lot more difficult to understand.

The feeling of uselessness of the donation

As mentioned above, we are quickly overwhelmed by the sheer extent of the need.

When researchers told study participants in an experiment that several thousand people were in danger in a refugee camp in Rwanda and asked the participants to donate for the refugees, their willingness to donate was linked to the relative number of people they could save.

They were more willing to donate if they could help 1500 out of 5000 refugees with it than if they could save the same number, but this time out of a total of 10,000 refugees.

The smaller the percentage, the lower the willingness to donate. Psychologists call this phenomenon “useless thinking”.

Paul Sloviv assumes that this phenomenon is probably linked to a feeling of guilt towards the people who cannot be saved. So these feelings of guilt are likely to have a negative effect on our compassion and altruism.

The spread of responsibility

This phenomenon is often referred to as the “spectator effect” and can be easily observed in everyday situations. In short, we assume that enough other people are aware of a cause and one of them will already do what should be done, such as donating to a good cause.

The thought of money

The very thought of money can also inhibit altruism.

In an experiment, researchers prepared a group of participants to think about money, for example by using Monopoly piles of money next to them. The control group received no money reminders.

The money group showed less cooperation in that it took them longer to ask for help on a difficult task. They kept a greater distance from their fellow participants, helped significantly less and donated less of the money they received for participating in the study.

This behavior could be due to people's thoughts of being able to buy something. It is assumed that this feeling limits the willingness to donate. Egoism is encouraged, the sense of community decreases significantly.

Lack of transparency

Many potential donors also inhibit the fear that their donation will not be used efficiently or that it will not be used for its intended purpose.

Reports of misappropriation of donations that keep popping up add to this fear.

“The organization serves as an anchor of trust, its name must guarantee security like a brand.” Meyer, Fundraiser Magazin