Thursday, March 8, 2018

Schulz, Thiemann, and Thöni (2016) on Nudging Generosity

Jonathan F. Schulz, Petra Thiemann, and Christian Thöni, “Nudging Generosity: Choice Architecture and Cognitive Factors in Charitable Giving,” USC-INET Research Paper No. 16-26, September 13, 2016.

• The subjects (n=869) are students at a Swiss university, who are asked at the end of a pen-and-paper study if they would like to donate to charity some of any winnings they make from the experiment.

• In one treatment, the students who indicate that they want to donate to charity must write in a charity name in a blank space. In the alternative treatment, the students are given a list of five well-known charities which they can choose among, along with a blank space in case they want to indicate another charity.

The one-line summary of the results is that providing a short list of recommended charities, along with a “choose your own” option, doubles the number of donors relative to just having the “choose your own” option.

• The average donation per donor is unchanged, so the “list” treatment also doubles total contributions. Most donations in the "list" treatment go to listed charities; other charities are "crowded out" by not being listed.

• Females donate significantly more than males.

Shakespeare on the Benefits of Information Avoidance

What sense had I of her stol'n hours of lust?
I saw't not, thought it not, it harm'd not me:
I slept the next night well, was free and merry;
I found not Cassio's kisses on her lips:
He that is robb'd, not wanting what is stol'n,
Let him not know't, and he's not robb'd at all.

(Othello, Act 3, Scene 3, Lines 2015-2020; this passage appears as the epigraph to Russell Golman, David Hagmann, and George Loewenstein, “Information Avoidance,” Journal of Economic Literature 55(1): 96-135, March 2017.)


I had been happy, if the general camp,
Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,
So I had nothing known. O, now, for ever
Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!

(OthelloAct 3, Scene 3, Lines 2022-2025)


How blest am I 
In my just censure, in my true opinion!
Alack, for lesser knowledge! how accursed
In being so blest! There may be in the cup 
A spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart,
And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
Is not infected: but if one present 
The abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known
How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
With violent hefts. I have drunk,
and seen the spider.

(The Winter's Tale, Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 645-655)