“Giving the Self: When People Prefer Giving Something that Represents One’s Essence” by TaeWoo Kim, MinJung Koo and Ayelet Fishbach
Different forms of giving may vary by the extent to which people believe that they are giving something that represents their essence (i.e., how much givers sense they are “giving the self”). For example, blood or possession donations often feel more like the giving of one’s essence than money donations of comparable value, and signing a petition with one’s name similarly feels more “self-giving” than signing an anonymous petition. The current research explores when people prefer self-giving over giving comparable non-personal resources. Prior research has shown that givers perceive themselves as more generous individuals when giving involves the self because contributions appear subjectively more valuable and people internalize the act of giving as part of who they are (Koo and Fishbach 2016). Building on this finding, we hypothesize that givers will prefer self-giving over giving comparable non-personal resources when givers focus on their own (vs. recipients’) benefit (e.g., how positive they would feel after the giving). In support of this hypothesis, we found that the ratio of blood (vs. money) donation was higher when givers focused on their own (vs. recipients’) benefit (Study 1). The same effect was replicated with clothes donation (Study 2) and toy donation (Study 3) where the extent of self-giving was measured by the degree to which donors identified clothing as part of the self. However, this effect was attenuated when donors adopted a third-person perspective because donors recognized that self-giving and its value-equivalent in non-self-giving (e.g., money instead of blood) are comparably beneficial to the recipient (Study 4). The current research contributes to the literature on selfish vs. selfless motivation of donation and to the burgeoning literature on non-money donation (e.g., donation of one’s time or skills).