Who gives? Characteristics of those who have taken the Giving What We Can pledge

Matti Wilks*, Jessica McCurdy, Paul Bloom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

OBJECTIVE: In the current project, we focus on another group of unusual altruists: people who have taken the Giving What We Can (GWWC) pledge to donate at least 10% of their income to charity. Our project aims to understand what is unique about this population.
BACKGROUND: Many people care about helping, but in recent years there has been a surge of research examining those whose moral concern for others goes far beyond that of the typical population. These unusual altruists (also termed extraordinary or extreme altruists or moral exemplars) make great personal sacrifices to help others-such as donating their kidneys to strangers or participating in COVID-19 vaccine challenge trials.
METHOD: In a global study (N = 536) we examine a number of cognitive and personality traits of GWWC pledgers and compare them to a country-matched comparison group.
RESULTS: In accordance with our predictions, GWWC pledgers were better at identifying fearful faces, more morally expansive and higher in actively open-minded thinking, need for cognition and two subscales of utilitarianism and, tentatively, lower in social dominance orientation. Against our predictions, they were lower in maximizing tendency. Finally, we found an inconclusive relationship between pledger status and empathy/compassion that we believe warrants further examination.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings offer initial insights into the characteristics that set apart those who have made the decision to donate a substantial portion of their income to help others.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality
Early online date8 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • charitable giving
  • extreme altruism
  • extraordinary altruism
  • unusual altruism


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