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Can Science Explain Why People Give To Charity?

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Charity will be a great topic for sermons in the church to talk about the good virtues of helping the poor. However, the topic, charity, may seem to be out of range for science except if the preacher happens to be a “preacher scientist”. Although people have to work for their money, but it is not unusual to find out that people often give out part of what they earn.

We can assume that this is out of good will or desire to help others who are less privileged. But science don’t believe in assumptions. In science, assumptions are modified into hypotheses. These hypotheses then become the questions that science hope to find answers to. This will then be followed by experiments to test the hypothesis; making observation and collecting necessary data to make sensible judgment rather than assumptions.

A research article titled “Why do people spend money to help vulnerable people?” seeks to find out this answer. It is known that people will always defend their own interest first. But why would someone want to give?

For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by the Microsoft giant, Bill Gates, and his wife, Melinda is popular for contributing greatly in charity. Their activity range from funding of science research to donations to the developing countries. Bill and Melinda are said to have donated to the foundation more than $35.8 billion source.

The richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote, is not left out of this. His foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, focuses its charity on health, children education and economic empowerment through creation of employment. Charity is not limited to the world richest people. People who earn lesser amount of money still contribute to charity. This list may also include you so let’s find out why you or other people give to charity.

Prosocial Behaviour

It will be important to understand the concept of prosocial behavior to have a basic background on this topic. This concept explain the act helping others either in the form of giving to charity or even other actions such as donating blood or volunteering in various social services. This behavior is not new in human history and it is also observed among animals that live in social group [3]. However, it is important to know the motivation for this behavior.

Why do people engage in prosocial behavior?

The researchers were curious to know the reason why people engage in prosocial behaviour, especially giving to less vulnerable people. Is this prosocial spending is as a result of previous exposure to donation? In other words, if people were made to donate the first time will they be willing to donate again? Also, will people be willing to donate more if their first donation was of a free will without being required to donate a specified amount?

The researchers postulated some hypotheses to be allow them come to a conclusion. The hypotheses as postulated by the researchers are as follow:

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  • Hypothesis 1: People spend more money on helping vulnerable people if they have been exposed to a prosocial donation situation than if they have not had this exposure. [4]
  • Hypothesis 2: People spend more money on helping vulnerable people after being exposed to an autonomous donation situation than after being forced to donate a certain amount to others. [4]
  • Hypothesis 3: Initial prosocial spending characterized by a compulsory fixed amount biases subsequent voluntary prosocial donations. [4]
  • Hypothesis 4: Eudaimonic well-being beliefs (contribution-to-others and self-development) are positively related to prosocial spending. [4]
  • Hypothesis 5: Autonomy moderates he relationship between eudaimonic well-being beliefs and prosocial spending, such that this relationship is stronger after an autonomous donation situation than after individuals are forced to donate a fixed amount to others. [4]

I promise I don’t want to bore you with all the procedure but it is necessary I explain the little way I can. I will keep it brief and easy to understand.

The participants for this experiment were undergraduate students and they were divided into five groups to test for these hypotheses. The procedure for participation was divided into five steps which involve signing of consent document, filling the questionnaire, prior exposure (or no exposure) to NGO donation, a few minute break and the final decision to use the free voucher that will be given to every participant.

Actual money was not given but this voucher could be used for the following:

  • a) personal use at the university store
  • b) personal use at the cafeteria
  • c) donation to the NGO

Two out of these five groups were designed to be control. This means that they did not have a prior exposure to donating to any NGO. The other three groups have a prior exposure to NGO donation. Out of these three groups, two groups were obligated to donate to NGO. One group will donate a fixed amount while the other can donate any amount of their choice. The last group, however, have the liberty to either donate to NGO or not. The amount that each group donated was used to evaluate the prosocial spending of the group.

Enough with the procedure. I promised not bore you with these details. Let’s conclude already by talking about what they found out. Do people spend more money on charity if they have been exposed to a prosocial donation? The answer is yes. The researchers found out that people will react positively to similar stimulus that they’ve been exposed to before. And this is also true in the situation where there is prior exposure to donation.

Another hypothesis seek to confirm if people will donate money to vulnerable people if their first exposure was out of free will or a fixed amount was to be contributed. To this they find out that there is no relationship with the willingness to give at the first exposure. The result shows that people who have been exposed to prior donation will still give more than those who have not been.

However, the third hypothesis was confirmed which means that people who gave a compulsory fixed amount in their first exposure will give less in subsequent times. And finally, the result shows that there is a positive relationship between Eudamonic beliefs and prosocial spending. What this means is that people feel more positive that they have been able to contribute to the well-being of others. This feeling becomes more positive when people are allowed to decide the amount they were willing to donate than when a fixed amount is required.

So in conclusion, people who have been exposed to charity donation will be willing to give more than people who have not been. Also, people who believe that they are contributing to the well-being of others through their donations will generously give more

Reference

  1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – FAQ Aliko Dangote Foundation
  2. Cronin, K.A. (2012). Prosocial behaviour in animals: the influence of social relationships, communication and rewards.
  3. Pătraș, L. et al. (2019) Why do people spend money to help vulnerable people?

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Can Science Explain Why People Give To Charity? (2021, September 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/can-science-explain-why-people-give-to-charity/
“Can Science Explain Why People Give To Charity?” Edubirdie, 13 Sept. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/can-science-explain-why-people-give-to-charity/
Can Science Explain Why People Give To Charity? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/can-science-explain-why-people-give-to-charity/> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2022].
Can Science Explain Why People Give To Charity? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 13 [cited 2022 Dec 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/can-science-explain-why-people-give-to-charity/
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