Affect (Psychology), Charity, Cognition, Consumer behavior, Consumers, Empathy, Social distance


Two essays comprise this doctoral dissertation on consumers and their charitable donations. The overall objective is to investigate the role of psychological distance in charitable donations, with each essay dealing with a different moderator of this relationship. In the first essay, I study the interactive effect of social distance and processing mode (affect vs. cognition). Specifically, people tend to donate more if they use their emotions rather than cognition as diagnostic inputs for decision making, especially when donor and recipient are separated by greater social distance. This may be because affect-driven and cognition-driven donors are influenced by different goals. Affect-driven donors are mainly motivated by a consummatory goal of increasing their “warm glow” utility whereas cognition-driven donors are mainly motivated by an instrumental goal of increasing “public goods” utility (i.e., making a contribution that may benefit the donor as well). While both consummatory and instrumental goals are relevant at closer social distance, only the consummatory goal is at work at greater social distance, which leads to a social distance by processing mode interaction. The hypothesized effect is tested in a series of three experiments that use different contexts and dependent measures (e.g., donation of money vs. time). iv In the second essay, I turn to the joint effect of psychological distance and dispositional empathy on charitable donation. Empathy or “Einfühlung” is defined as feeling one‟s way into the situation of another. While the literature suggests that empathy generally increases various forms of prosocial behavior including donations, I argue that this effect is contingent upon the psychological distance between donor and recipient. The role of empathy is especially pronounced when the recipient is perceived to be psychologically closer to the donor. This is because closer psychological distance leads to greater identification by the donor with the recipient, which in turn leads to greater donation. I demonstrated support for the hypothesized interaction between dispositional empathy and psychological distance in three experiments, each addressing a different type of psychological distance. I conclude this dissertation with a discussion of the theoretical contribution and managerial importance of the findings. Managers of not-for-profits are confronted with a multitude of challenges in increasing donations while optimizing their resources. By pointing out the processes that underlie individual donors‟ decisions on charitable donations, this dissertation addresses a long-felt but rarely addressed lacuna in the literature.


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Graduation Date





He, Xin


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Business Administration










Release Date

July 2016

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Business Administration -- Dissertations, Academic, Dissertations, Academic -- Business Administration

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