Blood, Sweat, and Cheers: The Martyrdom Effect Increases Willingness to Sponsor Others’ Painful and Effortful Prosocial Acts
41 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2018
Date Written: January 13, 2018
Previous research has found that people generally contribute more to a charitable or collective cause when they expect to endure pain and exert effort for that cause (Olivola & Shafir, 2013; see also Olivola, 2010). That is, the prospect of their own pain and effort led them to donate more to the cause – a phenomenon called the 'martyrdom effect' (Olivola & Shafir, 2013). This paper shows that the martyrdom effect extends beyond the self: Enduring pain and effort for a charitable cause also motivates others to contribute more to that cause. Across five experiments, we test this hypothesis, consider alternative accounts, and examine the underlying mechanism. The martyrdom effect extended to others has important implications for designing successful charity fundraisers. Common sense and many theories of human behavior assume that people prefer that others – especially close others – not endure pain and effort, and would therefore prescribe making the fundraising experience as easy and enjoyable for people as possible in order to get their friends, family, and colleagues to donate. However, our results suggest that people are more – not less – willing to sponsor a close other’s fundraising when the fundraising process is painful and effortful. Therefore, making a person’s fundraising experience challenging is often the best way to attract donations, whereas making the experience easy and enjoyable is likely to backfire in many cases.
Keywords: Martyrdom Effect, Charity, Fundraising, Pain, Effort
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