Identifying Donor Recipients in Media Reports Increases Willingness to Donate

PHotograph by Province of British Columbia. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

PHotograph by Province of British Columbia. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In Numbers & Nerves Paul Slovic and colleagues discuss how first person narratives can be used to overcome psychic numbing by creating an emotional connection with the listener. While statistics fail to move us to act, identifying with one person in need can be a powerful motivator for prosocial decisions.

A recent article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Inbal Harel, Tehila Kogut, Meir Pinchas, and Paul Slovic examines how media representations of organ donation affect people’s willingness to be an organ donor. They conclude that people are more willing to become an organ donor when they are provided with a personal story of a prospective recipient of organ donation. By identifying the recipient of a donation, media representations of organ donation can create a emotional connection between the listener and someone in need of help. In this way, identifying recipients of organ donation is a mechanism to evoke generosity.

Contact us to receive a copy of the article or visit PNAS to access the article online.

Abstract: We examine how presentations of organ donation cases in the media may affect people's willingness to sign organ donation commitment cards, donate the organs of a deceased relative, support the transition to an “opt-out” policy, or donate a kidney while alive. We found that providing identifying information about the prospective recipient (whose life was saved by the donation) increased the participants’ willingness to commit to organ donation themselves, donate the organs of a deceased relative, or support a transition to an “opt-out” policy. Conversely, identifying the deceased donor tended to induce thoughts of death rather than about saving lives, resulting in fewer participants willing to donate organs or support measures that facilitated organ donation. A study of online news revealed that identification of the donor is significantly more common than identification of the recipient in the coverage of organ donation cases—with possibly adverse effects on the incidence of organ donations.

Citation: Harel, I., Kogut, T., Pinchas, M., & Slovic, P. (2017). Effect of media presentations on willingness to commit to organ donation. PNAS, 114, 5159–5164. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1703020114