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The preference for distributed helping.


Whether deciding how to distribute donations to online requesters or divide tutoring time among students, helpers must often determine how to allocate aid across multiple individuals in need. This paper investigates the psychology underlying helpers' allocation strategies and tests preferences between two types of allocations: distribution (allocating help to multiple requesters) and concentration (allocating help to a single requester). Six main experiments and three follow-up experiments (n = 3,016) show a general preference for distributing help, because distribution feels procedurally fairer than concentration. We provide evidence for this preference in Experiment 1, test its psychological mechanisms (Experiments 2-3), and examine consequences for the amount of help provided (Experiments 4, 5a, and 5b). Experiment 3 demonstrates a boundary condition to the preference for distribution, showing that if one requester seems needier than others it can feel fairer to concentrate help to him or her. Next, testing real donation decisions in Experiments 4-5b, helpers distributed their donations across multiple requesters, which led them to donate more in aggregate when there were more requesters. Finally, the preference for distribution only resulted in more donations to a larger number of requesters when the donation decision was "unpacked," that is, when donors made allocations for each requester separately (Experiments 5a and 5b). Understanding helpers' allocation strategies provides insight into how people help others, how much they help, and why they help. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

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