Moral Arguments and Global Poverty

It has long been known that pictorial images are effective in motivating individuals to donate to charity. However, little is known about the extent to which moral arguments can motivate such behaviour. As a first step toward closing this knowledge gap, Meena Krishnamurthy, Matthew V. Lindauer, Thomas Pogge and Peter Singer have launched, through Yale’s Experiment Month competition, an experiment that tests the comparative effectiveness of different types of philosophical argument (analogical, inductive, positive-duty based, negative-duty based) in inspiring moral concern and action regarding global poverty.

Harnessing Ideas from Cognitive Science

Motivating people to donate to humanitarian aid is a complex task that involves all aspects of human psychology. People’s moral, causal, and economic reasoning, personalities, social roles, everyday goal pursuits, emotional processes, and group identification deeply influence their choice whether and where to give to charity. Brendan Dill and Gilad Tanay have launched a project that will bring together researchers working in human psychology and individuals working in fundraising for humanitarian aid.

The aim is to utilize insights from psychology to create more effective charity fundraising methods. The project team will first solicit proposals for concrete improvements to charity fundraising methods from researchers who study areas of psychology that are especially relevant to charity fundraising, such as empathy, moral psychology, goal pursuit, and social norms. The project team will then work to implement and field test each proposal, disseminating the results either in collaboration with a particular humanitarian nonprofit or as an independent general fundraising campaign. Through these steps, the project aims to create more powerful fundraising methods for humanitarian aid.

How People Think About Aiding the Poor

There are many ways to aid people in present and future generations. We might help everyone equally, try to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number, or help those only below some threshold. Nicole Hassoun is collaborating with Nathan Lubchenco in investigating how people think about aiding the global poor. Understanding what principles people embrace is not only important for critiquing philosophical theories about how we should distribute aid. It is important for understanding why people (and perhaps aid institutions) give in the ways that they do and creating policies to change the way that aid works. Hassoun and Lubchenco present some preliminary results from this project here. This paper extends some of Hassoun’s previous work in “Meeting Needs.”