To help in whole or in parts? : The role of construal level in all-at-once versus distributed philanthropy
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In the present research, I apply a construal level framework to understanding when people gravitate towards all-at-once (e.g., four hours in one day, $100 lump-sum) versus distributed (one hour a day for four days, $20 per month for 5 months) philanthropy. I argue that more abstract construals increase the weight that people place on idealistic concerns, whereas more concrete construals increase the weight that people place on pragmatic concerns, and that people expect allocating time and money in an all-at-once versus distributed manner to satisfy idealistic and pragmatic concerns to different degrees. Chapter 1 of this dissertation focuses specifically on volunteerism and compliance to specific requests (i.e., an all-at-once or a distributed request, but not both). Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated people expected all-at-once and distributed volunteerism to satisfy idealistic and pragmatic concerns, respectively. The final two studies in Chapter 1 showed that situationally induced differences (Study 3) and individual differences (Study 4) in construal level were associated with behavioral compliance to a volunteer request. Specifically, people who adopted a more abstract construal were more likely to comply with an all-at-once (versus distributed) request. Conversely, people who adopted a more concrete construal were more likely to comply with a distributed (versus all-at-once) volunteer request. Chapter 2 explored the role of construal level in compliance with allocated monetary requests. Study 5 demonstrated that people expect all-at-once and distributed donations to satisfy idealistic and pragmatic concerns, respectively. Study 6 demonstrated that a real-world relevant manipulation of construal level influenced behavioral compliance to a donation request. Specifically, people who were led to adopt a more abstract construal were more likely to comply with an all-at-once (versus distributed) request, whereas people who were led to adopt a more concrete construal were more likely to comply with a distributed (versus all-at-once) donation request. Study 7 provided evidence that people’s baseline preference is for all-at-once requests, highlighting the utility of a more concrete construal in increasing receptivity to distributed requests. Finally, although many organizations do not offer a distributed donation option, Study 8 showed that it does not necessarily hurt an organization to include it among the options. However, preliminary evidence is inconclusive as to whether offering distributed contribution option can increase the likelihood and amount that people donate in the long run. Chapter 3 concludes the dissertation with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of the findings, as well as potential future research directions.