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Do people donate more when they perceive a single beneficiary whom they know? A field experimental test of the identifiability effect

Al-Ubaydli, Omar and Yeomans, Mike (2014): Do people donate more when they perceive a single beneficiary whom they know? A field experimental test of the identifiability effect.

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Abstract

According to the identifiability effect, people will donate more to a single beneficiary rather than to many beneficiaries, holding constant what the donations are actually used for. We test the identifiability effect for two novel subject pools (the suppliers and beneficiaries of volunteer labor). We also test a refinement of the identifiability effect where we vary whether or not the single beneficiary is personally known to the solicitees. While the behavior of volunteers is consistent with the identifiability effect, we find that the identifiability effect is reversed for beneficiaries of volunteer labor. Moreover, we find that making the single beneficiary personally known to the solicitees lowers donations by a statistically insignificant amount, suggesting that it does not enhance donations.

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