Argument-inconsistency in charity appeals. Statistical information about the scope of the problem decrease helping toward a single identified victim but not helping toward many non-identified victims in a refugee crisis context.
It is known that both the characteristics of the victims one can help and the existence of victims one cannot help influence economic helping decisions in suboptimal ways. The aim of this study was to systematically test if these two aspects interact with each other. In Studies 1 and 2, we created hypothetical charity appeals related to the Syrian refugee crisis and factorially manipulated characteristics of victims possible to help (one identified child/nine non-identified children) and presence of statistical information about the scope and nature of the problem (information-box absent/present). We found a significant interaction effect both when using self-rated helping intention (Study 1), and when using actual donation behavior as the dependent variable (Study 2). Statistical information decreased helping intentions toward a single identified child but had no, or even a small positive effect on helping nine non-identified children. In Study 3, non-student participants reading a charity appeal with both a story about one identified child and statistical information donated less often than participants reading appeals with either only a story about one identified child or only statistical information. We suggest that both emotional arguments (e.g., a story and picture of an identified child in need) and analytical arguments (e.g., detailed statistical information about the scope and nature of the problem) can make us more motivated to help refugees, but that mixing different argument-types can make charity appeals internally inconsistent and decrease donations.
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