Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Thoughts of Death Influence Food Choices, Charitable Giving

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Researchers told 115 participants that they would be entered into a $200 lottery as part of their compensation for a study. All participants answered questions to determine the importance of virtue to their self-esteem. Half were then asked questions about the prospect of their own deaths, while a control group was asked questions about dental pain.
The researchers then asked each person to indicate how much of the $200 lottery prize they would be willing to donate to a charity if they won.
The experiment demonstrated that charitable giving and virtuous behavior are influenced by salience -- thoughts -- of death in men and women. Participants for whom virtue is an important source of self-esteem offered significantly higher donations (an average of $65) when mortality was more salient than when it was not (an average of $34.50) and also reported significantly higher intentions to engage in socially conscious consumer behaviors when mortality thoughts were elevated. "

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