Despite widespread conviction that neediness is the most important criterion for charitable allocations, we observe a “charity beauty premium” in which donors often favor beautiful, but less needy charity recipients. We propose that donors hold simultaneous, yet incongruent preferences of wanting to support beautiful recipients (who tend to be judged as less needy) yet believing they should support needy recipients instead. We additionally posit that preferences for beautiful recipients are most likely to emerge when decisions are intuitive whereas preferences for needy recipients are most likely to emerge when decisions are deliberative. We test these propositions in several ways. First, when a beautiful recipient is introduced to basic choice sets, it becomes the most popular option and increases donor satisfaction. Second, heightening deliberation steers choices away from beautiful recipients and toward needier ones. Third, donors explicitly state that they “want” to give to beautiful recipients but “should” give to less beautiful, needier ones. Taken together, these findings reconcile and extend previous and sometimes conflicting results about beauty and generosity.
Cryder, C., Botti, S., & Simonyan, I. (2017). The Charity Beauty Premium: Satisfying Donors’ Want versus Should Desires. Journal of Marketing Research, 54(4), 605-618. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmr.14.0658