New Insights Into Love, Altruism, and the Joy of Giving


Michal Ann Strahilevitz (1994) ,"New Insights Into Love, Altruism, and the Joy of Giving", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 228.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994      Page 228


Michal Ann Strahilevitz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Altruism has been described as the consumption of "warm glow" (Adreoni 1989, 1990), the purchase of moral satisfaction (Kahneman and Knetsch 1992), and an act motivated by the desire for praise, appreciation, and improved self esteem (Becker 1974). There must be some sort of value associated with acts of altruism, or people would not behave altruistically. Regardless of whether altruists pay for this "value" by donating cash, contributing their time, or by risking their own welfare, they are clearly consuming something.

The participants in this special session feel that altruism is a form of consumption worthy of our attention. The papers presented cover issues such as the effect of love on altruism, the role of culture in determining helping behavior, and the factors that influence the value which donors derive from acts of giving.

The first paper, by Russell Belk, focuses on altruism in gift-giving. Drawing on findings concerning dating and romantic love, Belk suggests that we sometimes give to others because we feel unselfish agapic love (versus selfish erotic love) toward them. An agapic altruism model is developed and implications for understanding gift exchange are considered. Four potential types of agapic altruism are identified: romantic love, familial love, neighborly love, and spiritual love. The roles of sacrifice, passion, and self-transcendence are shown to be common to each of these types of altruism. Both the differences between giving to strangers and giving to loved ones and the distinction between altruism geared towards relieving pain and altruism geared towards producing pleasure are discussed. Finally, it is argued that because of the passionate nature of agapic altruism, it is not likely to be stimulated by normative appeals concerning what should be done.

The second paper, by Julie Lee, Stephen Holden, Keith Murnighan, and Mark A. Patton, represents a collaborative effort involving researchers from four different countries. The paper discusses a cross-cultural analysis of the empathy-prospect model of altruistic intentions proposed by Murnighan and Lee. The model predicts that potential altruists will make decisions (i.e. evaluate prospects) in much the same way as decision makers in other contexts. The research examines data collected in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, France, and the United States to assess the cross-cultural applicability of this model. Differences are found based on individualism-collectivism (national level) and idiocentrism-allocentrism (individual value orientation level).

The third paper, by Michal Strahilevitz, examines the factors that affect the personal utility that individuals derive from helping others. Based on a series of lab experiments and field studies, this paper develops a model which contrasts the utility derived from giving with that obtained from receiving. In the case of giving to charity, the personal utility derived by the donor is described as being a combination of the good feelings associated with knowing that a worthy cause is being supported (analogous to acquisition utility) and the experiential utility derived from "being the one" to make that donation (analogous to transaction utility). A variety of dimensions are discussed including variety seeking tendencies, sensitivity to magnitude, sensitivity to framing effects, and appreciation as a function of sacrifice. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for both fundraisers interested in maximizing total donations, and donors concerned with maximizing the good feelings they derive from their own contributions.

Finally the discussant, Alan Andreasen, shares his own insights on the three papers presented, calling attention to the need for future research in this area.



Michal Ann Strahilevitz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1994

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