Do Perceived Social Norms Affect Generosity?

Matthew Hagler, Catherine Lambert, Natalie Rothwell, and Karen Yu*,
Sewanee: The University of the South

Full manuscript: www.kon.org/urc/v11/hagler.html

Abstract Generosity, defined as one’s willingness to give, has been studied in a variety of contexts. The present study sought to uncover the effect of perceived social norms on generosity. Undergraduate students completed an electronic questionnaire supposedly examining community engagement. We exposed participants to one of three different social norms for generosity by embedding different statistics regarding the behavior of the average undergraduate student within the questionnaire. Following this manipulation were two evaluative questions measuring generosity via participants’ allocation of funds to outreach and charity, followed by an abbreviated version of the Interpersonal Generosity Scale (IGS).

The provided social norms did not affect participants’ allocation of funds to outreach and charity. Alternative interpretations of these results are discussed, including the possibilities that: (a) social norms influence generosity only when both the provided social norms and the assessment of generosity refer to the same specific act, and (b) our manipulation of social norms was not strong enough, and (c) our measure of generosity was not sensitive enough, given that we assessed participants’ hypothetical allocations to two broad categories.

Full manuscript: www.kon.org/urc/v11/hagler.html