Quotation Dickert, Stephan, Kleber, Janet, Västfjäll, Daniel, Slovic, Paul. 2016. Mental imagery, impact, and affect: A mediation model for charitable giving. PLoS ONE 11 (2), 1-15.




One of the puzzling phenomena in philanthropy is that people can show strong compassion for identified individual victims but remain unmoved by catastrophes that affect large numbers of victims. Two prominent findings in research on charitable giving reflect this idiosyncrasy: The (1) identified victim and (2) victim number effects. The first of these suggests that identifying victims increases donations and the second refers to the finding that people’s willingness to donate often decreases as the number of victims increases. While these effects have been documented in the literature, their underlying psychological processes need further study. We propose a model in which identified victim and victim number effects operate through different cognitive and affective mechanisms. In two experiments we present empirical evidence for such a model and show that different affective motivations (donor-focused vs. victim-focused feelings) are related to the cognitive processes of impact judgments and mental imagery. Moreover, we argue that different mediation pathways exist for identifiability and victim number effects.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal PLoS ONE
Citation Index SSCI
Language English
Title Mental imagery, impact, and affect: A mediation model for charitable giving
Volume 11
Number 2
Year 2016
Page from 1
Page to 15
Reviewed? Y
URL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0148274
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148274


Dickert, Stephan (Former researcher)
Kleber, Janet (Former researcher)
Slovic, Paul (Decision Research, United States/USA)
Västfjäll, Daniel (Linköping University, Sweden)
Institute for Marketing and Consumer Research IN (Details)
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