All you need is love

to increase charitable donations.

In a fascinating experiment French researchers found that by adding the phrase “donating= loving” to collection boxes contributions increased and they received at least two-thirds more than similar boxes which had either “donating=helping” or no additional text.

The researchers, at the Universite de Bretagne-Sud, think that the word “loving” primes people to behave more generously by activating ideas about compassion and support which in turn leads to behaviour consistent with that.

Another experiment involving asking men for directions to St Valentine’s Street made them subsequently more likely to help a women who had lost her phone compared to men who were asked the way to St Martin’s Street.

Motivation and attitudes can be influenced by words and objects without our realising it. For example, one experiment about age-related words resulted in people leaving the experiment walking more slowly.

Modern svengali Derren Brown has used this idea in some of his famous TV programmes. Posters of eyes have led to more people using honesty boxes in a university canteen, and cardboard cut-out policemen in shops are presumably intended to have the same effect.

The French researchers also thought that perhaps the words “donating=helping” sounded too much like an instruction in French but could also have had less influence because it was redundant. They also don’t know whether more people donated or the same number just gave more.

Nevertheless I’m sure it’s another idea that charities will pick up on to increase their income.

Original Source: The Psychologist Vol 25 No 2 February 2012

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