The “Martyrdom Effect”: When the Prospect of Pain and Effort Increases Charitable Giving

Christopher Olivola, Princeton University, USA
Eldar Shafir, Princeton University, USA
Normative and lay theories of decision-making consider pain and effort to be deterrents. In contrast, we provide novel evidence that the prospect of pain and effort can promote charitable giving. Across a series of experiments, participants contributed more money to a prosocial cause when the contribution process was painful and effortful than when it was neutral or enjoyable. We demonstrate this “martyrdom effect” using both hypothetical scenarios and studies involving real money and pain, and show that it cannot be explained by a taste for painful-effortful donation activities, cognitive dissonance, social norms, or an attribute substitution heuristic process.
[ to cite ]:
Christopher Olivola and Eldar Shafir (2009) ,"The “Martyrdom Effect”: When the Prospect of Pain and Effort Increases Charitable Giving", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 190-194.