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Papers of the week

9th Dec 2013

In the Behavioural Insights Team, we are always looking for the latest experimental finding. Academic economists, psychologists and others create a constant stream of interesting work that helps to shape what we do.

This post is our inaugural attempt to regularly share some of our favourite findings each week. Please see below for a quick summary of the paper and a link for those who would like to read the paper itself.

Toward an understanding of why suggestions work in charitable fundraising: theory and evidence from a natural field experiment (November 13, 2013)

James T. Edwards and John A. List

In this paper, John List and James Edwards run a trial phoning recent university graduates and asking them to donate money to their alma mater. Compared to simply asking for a donation (where 3% of people give), suggesting they give $20 increased the proportion giving (to 4.4%).

But they didn’t stop here – they tried personalising the suggested amount (asking for $20.08 for somebody who graduated in 2008). This personalisation seemed to have no additional significant impact in the data (4.5%) but did outperform suggesting a random amount (suggesting $20.04 who graduated in 2008, etc.).

Please note that this is still a working paper and hasn’t yet been subject to peer review.

Click to access the paper