When promoting a charity can hurt charitable giving: A metacognitive analysis

Robert Smith, N. Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Donations to large numbers of victims are typically muted relative to donations to a single identified victim. This article shows that people can donate more to large numbers of victims if these victims are perceived as entitative—comprising a single, coherent unit. For example, donations to help children in need are higher when the children comprise a family than when they have no explicit group membership. The same effect is observed on donations for endangered animals that are depicted as moving in unison. Perceived entitativity results in more extreme judgments of victims. Victims with positive traits are therefore viewed more favorably when entitative, triggering greater feelings of concern and higher donations. Entitativity has the opposite effect for victims sharing negative traits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-564
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • perceived memory
  • charitable giving
  • metacognitive inference
  • lay theories
  • promotion
  • subjective knowledge


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