Four Pathways to Generosity: Evolutionary Differentially Affect Charitable Donations

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2016

Faculty Sponsor

John Ziker


Humans are known for their extensive prosocial behavior. An example of such behavior is philanthropic charitable giving. Studies of this topic suggest that solicitation is a prerequisite for a majority of charitable donations to occur. However, little is understood about how the social relationship between a solicitor and a potential donor influences donation amounts. Given the effectiveness of personal solicitations, this question is valuable for contextualizing the embeddedness of charitable donations. Using behavioral economics, we frame four solicitations using relationship cues that represent known selective pathways for human cooperation: inclusive fitness (KS), direct reciprocity (DR), indirect reciprocity (IR), and costly signaling (CS). Our results propose the impact of life experiences and psychological expectations have on philanthropic giving and prosocial preferences. In particular, trust, past non-profit experiences, and donation frequency significantly explain the experimental behavior of our subjects. These findings support experimental work done in evolutionary anthropology, economics, psychology and sociology.

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