Charitable Giving, Emotions, and the Default Effect

Charles Noussair, Lenka Habetinova

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We report an experiment to study the effect of defaults on charitable giving. In
three different treatments, participants face varying default levels of donation. In
three other treatments that are paired with the first three, they receive the same
defaults, but are informed that defaults are thought to have an effect on their donation decisions. The emotional state of all individuals is monitored throughout the sessions using Facereading software, and some participants are required to report their emotional state after the donation decision. We find that the default level has no effect on donations, and informing individuals of the possible impact of defaults also has no effect. The decision to donate is independent of prior emotional state, unless specific subgroups of participants are considered. Donors experience a negative change in the valence of their emotional state subsequent to donating, when valence is measured with Facereading software. This contrasts with the selfreport data, in which donating correlates with a more positive reported subsequent emotional state.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherCentER, Center for Economic Research
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2015

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • charitable giving
  • emotion
  • default
  • facereading


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