What psychological factors need to be considered when examining willingness to donate to disaster victims?

By: Kelsey Caitlin Hewitt

A review of: Zagefka, H., Noor, M., Brown, R., Hopthrow, T. and de Moura, G. R. (2012), Eliciting donations to disaster victims: Psychological considerations. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 15: 221–230. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-839X.2012.01378.x

An intriguing question in literature is how do donors decide which cause to choose (Zagefka, Noor, Brown, Hopthrow, and de Moura, 2012). The current study aimed to study the factors with individual decision making on donations to disaster victims. Zagefka et al. (2012) presented a narrow topic with the appeal of donating to disaster relief. When gathering previous research the aim is to provide a baseline. The amount of information presented in the current study was overwhelming. Numerous factors could predict the amount a person donates such as social media awareness and emotional connection. In the present study, it explored the interplay between three potential predictors of donations, namely the perceived extent of the victim’s Need, the Impact of a potential donation, and Amount donated by others (Zagefka et al., 2012). There were a total of four predictions in the introduction, which included face valid variables. In sum, it first hypothesized that a higher perceived need for help would lead to a greater willingness to donate. Second, they expected that a higher perceived impact of a potential donation would be associated with a greater willingness to donate. Third, they hypothesized that if people assume that others will donate, money, they would be less inclined to donate themselves. Lastly, they expected a negative effect of donations by others on willingness to donate in the present context. Overall, they established a satisfactory rationale and the need for a study representing different scenarios and asking participants to justify their choices. It should be noted that this study placed particular emphasis in Asian social psychology due to the growing number of disasters in Asia at the time of the study.

Two hundred and nineteen British students participated which allowed for more than enough participants in each cell. Data was collected in 2005, at a time when both the Tsunami disaster in Asia in 2004 and the Darfur disaster in Sudan were still well covered in the media (Zagefka et al., 2012). The current study is an experimental mixed-model design. In ease of explaining the design, the study consisted of two parts. Part one gathered qualitative data in an open-ended response format. This gave participants a chance to explain whether or not they would donate which aimed to explore the theory behind the bystander effect. Part two gathered quantitative data with a questionnaire survey. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two possible conditions: Tsunami or Darfur. The current study aimed to measure four scales. Each was a 7-point Likert type scale aiming to measure the need for help, impact of donation, amount donated by others, and willingness to donate. The study had no true procedure, which could lead to complications in replication. Emphasis was placed on the factors selected in this article explaining that these factors are not the only ones that need to be examined in a real-life scenario. The results found an interesting comparison when examining the difference in natural disasters and humanly-caused disasters. The average amount donated to the four natural disasters (i.e. West Africa, Pakistan, Katrina, and Stan) was roughly four times greater than the average amount donated to the three humanly-caused disasters (Sudan, Nepal, and Colombia). The current study clearly found evidence that people are more willing to donate if they think that the need for donation is high, if they think the donation is likely to have a substantial impact, and if they think that donations by others are comparatively low (Zagefka et al., 2012). In addition, the three factors interacted precisely as predicted.

This article was successful in its attempt to explore people’s willingness to donate in disasters. The authors incorporated smooth transitions from each section first noted in the introduction section with the inclusion of a methods preview. The methods section established well-detailed measures. Although at times the article appeared confusing, dividing the study into two allowed for easier explanations instead of compiling into one giant. The study hinted at standardization, but there was a lack of procedures. Within the results section the authors put forth effort in explaining the different regressions. However, the study should have included two coders to decipher the themes. One coder was used to find thirteen themes, while two independent coders were used to read statements and see if thirteen themes were indeed present. To conclude, within the discussion section it was clearly defined how each of the four hypotheses were met. By referring back to the hypotheses and aims, it allowed for a fuller picture. Overall, the present study can be used as a starting point to help advance our theoretical understanding of pro-social behavior.



Zagefka, H., Noor, M., Brown, R., Hopthrow, T. and de Moura, G. R. (2012), Eliciting donations to disaster victims: Psychological considerations. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 15: 221–230. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-839X.2012.01378.x

To cite this review, please use this reference: 
Hewitt, K.C. (2015). What psychological factors need to be considered when examining the willingness to donate to disaster victims? Psychology Alert (1). http://psychologyalert.com/what-psychological-factors-need-to-be-considered-when-examining-willingness-to-donate-to-disaster-victims