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I'm Moral, But I Won't Help You: The Distinct Roles of Empathy and Justice in Donations

61 Pages Posted: 19 May 2014  

Saerom Lee

University of Texas at San Antonio - College of Business

Karen Page Winterich

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration

William T. Ross Jr.

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Marketing

Date Written: May 17, 2014

Abstract

Donating to charitable causes is generally perceived as a moral, prosocial behavior, but this may not always be the case. Though moral identity tends to have a positive effect on prosocial behavior, moral identity does not unconditionally enhance charitable giving. Four studies demonstrate that moral identity decreases donations when recipients are responsible for their plight. Mediation analysis reveals that empathy and justice underlie these effects such that moral identity increases donations for recipients with low plight responsibility through increased empathy, but moral identity decreases donations to recipients with high plight responsibility due to perceptions of justice. Importantly, donations to recipients who are responsible for their plight can be enhanced when donors’ immorality is made salient, evoking empathy for recipients, particularly among donors with high moral identity. This research makes theoretical contributions in addition to providing implications for non-profit organizations whose recipients may be perceived as responsible for their plight.

Keywords: donations, responsibility, moral identity, non-profit, justice, empathy

Suggested Citation

Lee, Saerom and Winterich, Karen Page and Ross, William T., I'm Moral, But I Won't Help You: The Distinct Roles of Empathy and Justice in Donations (May 17, 2014). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2438279

Saerom Lee

University of Texas at San Antonio - College of Business ( email )

San Antonio, TX 78249
United States

Karen Page Winterich (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration ( email )

University Park, PA 16802
United States

William T. Ross Jr.

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Marketing ( email )

University Park, PA 16802-3306
United States

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