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Charitable Efforts Less Moral If Inspired By Personal Gain

Update Date: Jan 10, 2014 02:58 PM EST

If a person seeks a reward from his charitable efforts, we tend to perceive those efforts as less moral, according to a new study.

The phenomenon being called “tainted-altruism effect” describes charity as less favorable if it is in conjunction with the self-interested behavior. It is probably because we think that the person might have given all he possessed to charity selflessly.

“We are just starting to learn more about how people evaluate the altruistic behavior of others,” said Yale University researcher George Newman in a press release. “This work suggests that people may react very negatively to charitable initiatives that are perceived to be in some way ‘inauthentic.’”

As a part of the study, participants were asked to read the scenarios in which a man was trying to gain woman’s affection by volunteering at her workplace. One of the three group of participants read that she worked at a homeless shelter, the other group read that she worked at a coffee shop while the third group of participants read the both scenarios.

Participants who read that the man volunteered at the homeless shelter rated the man as less moral and less ethical. They also felt that the actions of the man were no more beneficial to society than the participants who read that he volunteered at the coffee shop.

“We found evidence that ‘tainted’ charity is seen as worse than doing no good at all,” Newman said. “Importantly, this effect can be framed away and appears to be pretty malleable.”

With these findings, researchers believe that it might reduce the tainted-altruism bias and might even lead to more charitable donations.

“In some cases, public assessments of charitable actions as genuine may trump any actual benefits realized from those efforts,” they concluded.

The findings of the study is published in Psychological Science.

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