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The Role of Feelings of Endowment in Charitable Giving Decisions


This dissertation investigates how feelings of ownership drive people to donate their physical goods (in lieu of making monetary donations) to charitable organizations during relief campaigns. In a mix of scenario and laboratory studies, we demonstrate that people are more likely to donate items they feel a stronger (versus weaker) sense of ownership over all while holding objective ownership and the tangibility of donation options constant. Importantly, this work demonstrates a reversal of the often-documented consequence of endowment effect in for profit contexts, in which stronger feelings of ownership over an item typically increases the difficulty in parting with the item. Consistent with previous work on the endowment effect, we find stronger feelings of ownership increase owners’ valuation of the item in donation markets. However, counter to traditional endowment effect outcomes, this increased expectation of value to the receiver in turn increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood that donors will part with their own items and items over which they feel stronger feelings of ownership.

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