UWE Bristol academic publishes research that attempts to increase donations to charity through lab-based experiments

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Across two studies, the lead of the Psychological Sciences Research Group (PSRG); Dr Miles Thompson, explored the potential influence of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), mindfulness and education on a specific prosocial behaviour: donations to charity. The research, published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioural Science, focused on charities working in the area of global poverty and human rights. Specifically Amnesty International and Oxfam.

Across the lab-based studies, participants were compensated for taking part and asked at three time points if they would give any of their payment to the charities. They were asked:

  1. at the start of the study,
  2. after brief interventions based on either ACT, mindfulness, education or control conditions, and
  3. at the end of the study when they were given their payment for taking part.

Interestingly and unexpectedly, at all three time points, many participants either gave all of their compensation to the charities or kept it all for themselves, resulting in bi-modal data. The brief ACT and mindfulness interventions did not significantly move donation behaviour. Nor did self-report ACT questionnaires correlate significantly with participant donations.

However, the education condition, which provided information on global poverty, human rights and the history and work of both Amnesty International and Oxfam did see participants give more money to the charities. In short, the results highlighted the importance of education in increasing prosocial behaviour.

Speaking about the research Dr Thompson noted: “I’m a clinical psychologist by background and have seen the positive impact of ACT and mindfulness in many areas of clinical and health psychology. The field also aspires to have an impact in broader prosocial areas such global poverty and human rights.

In this study, the results were not supportive of ACT and mindfulness. But it was very interesting to see the positive results for education. Importantly, simply telling people about how the world is and how people and organisations are working to make it better had a positive influence on donating behaviour”.

The paper can be accessed via the journal website. If anyone struggles to access the full version of the research, please contact Miles Thompson for a copy.

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