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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Generosity without borders: The interactive effect of spatial distance and donation goals on charitable giving

A. Jing Xu, M. A. Rodas, C. J. Torelli
Organizational Behavior and 
Human Decision Processes
Volume 161, November 2020, Pages 65-78


Although past research suggests that people are more likely to donate money to nearby causes to maximize their positive impact on others’ lives, donations to foreign causes are growing rapidly. Incorporating both other-focused impact goals and self-focused moral goals into our conceptualization, we propose that an interplay between the accessibility of impact/moral goals and the spatial distance between donors and recipients of charitable causes (e.g., faraway vs. nearby recipients) influences charitable behaviors (e.g., donation amounts and charitable choices). Specifically, when the goal to maintain a moral self-concept (impact recipients’ lives) is accessible, donors experience a more expansive conception of their moral circle (apply the “closeness-equals-impact” heuristic) and donate more money to faraway (nearby) causes. We further demonstrate that moral (impact) goals are more abstract (concrete) motivations, and their effects also emerge when priming an abstract (concrete) mindset. Five studies support these predictions while ruling out alternative interpretations.


• The goal to maintain a moral self-concept leads to higher donations to faraway causes.

• This effect is mediated by perceived expansion of one’s circle of moral regard.

• The goal to impact recipients’ lives leads to higher donations to nearby causes.

• Moral goals are abstract and can be activated by an abstract mindset.

• Impact goals are concrete and can be activated by a concrete mindset.

• Self-importance of moral identity moderates the effect of spatial distance on donations.

The research is here.