Thinking, good and bad? Deliberative thinking and the singularity effect in charitable giving

Hajdi Moche, Tom Gordon-Hecker, Tehila Kogut, Daniel Västfjäll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Can deliberation increase charitable giving when giving is impulsive (i.e., a one-time small gift in response to an immediate appeal)? We conduct two studies in Israel and Sweden to compare two forms of deliberation, unguided and guided, in their ability to decrease the singularity effect (i.e., giving more to one than many victims), often evident in impulsive giving. Under unguided deliberation, participants were instructed to simply think hard before making a donation decision whereas participants in the guided deliberation condition were asked to think how much different prespecified decision attributes should influence their decision. We find that both types of deliberation reduce the singularity effect, as people no longer value the single victim higher than the group of victims. Importantly, this is driven by donations being decreased under deliberation only to the single victim, but not the group of victims. Thus, deliberation affects donations negatively by overshadowing the affective response, especially in situations in which affect is greatest (i.e., to a single victim). Last, the results show that neither type of deliberation significantly reversed the singularity effect, as people did not help the group significantly more than the single victim. This means that deliberate thinking decreased the overall willingness to help, leading to a lower overall valuation of people in need.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-30
Number of pages17
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Affect
  • Charity
  • Deliberation
  • Identified victim
  • Singularity effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences (all)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


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