CHANDLER, J., Griffin, T. M., & Sorensen, N. (2008).
Katrina Petrillo raised over $1000 for Hurraicane Katrina victims by selling lemonade. When asked why, she said ‘I realised my name is going to go down in history as one of the biggest storms ever’ (Salkin, 2005).
This paper investigates the compliance technique of similarity in predicting that donors who share an initial with a disaster will be more likely to donate to disaster relief efforts for that particular disaster than would individuals who do not share an initial with a disaster.
This prediction, based on similarities affecting judgement and choice, revolves around the theory of ‘unit-relation’ (Heider, 1958), whereby individuals facilitate the assimilation of positive feelings of the self into the representation of the target (Pelham et al, 2002), in an effort to avoid associations with negative stimuli (Jones et al, 2004).
This unit-relation undeniably involves the effect if similarity. One study found that people with names beginning with the letters ‘D’ or ‘L’ are overrepresented in the profession of dentists and lawyers respectively (Pelham et al, 2002) and another that people named ‘George’ are more likely to live in Georgia than expected by chance (Nuttin, 1987).
In order to test the predictions, the researchers looked to sixty-six thousand donations from 1930 to early 2006 made to the Red Cross, looking in particular at Hurricane Katrina, which occurred in August 2005. They found that donations to the Red Cross increased dramatically following Hurricane Katrina. There were 240 donations recorded in August 2005 (prior to Katrina), compared to an average of 289 over the previous five Augusts (1999-2004).
Incorporating the specificity of similarity in sharing an initial with hurricane Katrina increasing the likelihood that one would donate to relief efforts, analyses showed a pronounced name letter effect. Researchers examined the effect of time (before vs. after Katrina) on disaster donations and where people allocated their money after Katrina. 4.2% of the donors in the six months prior to Katrina had a name with the initial K; this proportion increased to over 5% (a 31% increase over baseline) after Katrina.
Considering four other hurricanes (Charlie, August 2004; Francis, September 2004; Ivan, September 2004; and Wilma, October 2005), same-initial donations increasing after each hurricane proved significant. However, whilst supporting the prediction, the effect size were statistically non-significant, most likely due to small sample sizes. A breakdown of the percentage increases for each hurricane are shown below.
Conclusively, sharing an initial with a natural disaster increases the likelihood that people will donate to relief efforts for that disaster, but does not increase the average size of the donation. This finding replicates and extends earlier word done by Nelson and Simmons (2007) that suggests that people can be attracted to negative targets with which they share an initial. However, unlike previous studies, the findings from this experiment cannot easily be accounted for by the assimilation of positive feelings about the self into the target of evaluation. Current theories on this implicit egotism predict that people should either avoid association with a negative stimulus (Snyder et al, 1986) or downplay the negativity of same initial stimuli (Finch & Cialdini, 1989).
Chandler, J., Griffin, T. M., & Sorensen, N. (2008). In the ‘I’ of the storm: Shared initials increase disaster donations. Judgement and Decision Making, 3, 404-410.
Finch, J. F., & Cialdini, R. B. (1989). Another indirect tactic of (self-) image management: Boosting. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 15, 222-232.
Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Nelson, L. D., & Simmons, J. P. (2007). Moniker Maladies: When names sabotage success. Psychological Science, 18, 1106-1112.
Nuttin, J. M. (1987). Affective consequences of mere ownership: The name letter effect in twelve European languages. European Journal of Social Psychology, 17, 381-402.
Pelham, B. W., Mirenberg, M. C., & Jones, J. T. (2002). Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: Implicit egotism and major life decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 469-487.
Salkin, A. (2005) What’s in a Name, Katrinas? New York Times, p. 9-1.
Snyder, C. R., Lassegard, M., & Ford, C. E. (1986). Distancing after group success and failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 382-388.