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Exemplars and the Application of the Desert Heuristic When Responding to Fundraising Attempts
Unformatted Document Text:  12 the desert heuristic. Comparisons showed that the desert heuristic appeared to apply only to the fundraising attempt in favor of people suffering from obesity. This result suggests that the answer to the question as to whether application of the desert heuristic depends on the severity of the problem is affirmative. However, there is a rival explanation. Whereas the fundraising organizations for the Aids victims, heart disease patients, and homeless alcoholics were well known in the Netherlands, many participants expressed spontaneously that they had never heard about the organization raising money for obese people. Therefore, another explanation for the application of the desert heuristic for the obese people may be as follows. When responding to well-known fundraising organizations, people rely on previously formed attitudes and intentions to decide whether to donate money or not. When responding to a request by an unknown fundraising organization, they may have to construct their attitude from scratch, thereby relying on the desert heuristic. In order to test this rival explanation, a third experiment was conducted. Experiment 3 The aim of this experiment was to assess whether the desert heuristic is applied only in case of a fundraising request of a previously unknown organization or in case of less serious problems. To that end, three factors were manipulated: 1. The responsibility of the exemplar in the fundraising letter (responsible or not) 2. The severity of the trouble people are in (life threatening or not) 3. Familiarity with the fundraising organization (well-known or unknown). If the desert heuristic is only applied in the case of an unknown organization, an interaction between “familiarity with the organization” and “exemplar responsibility” should arise. If the desert heuristic is only applied in case of less serious problems, an interaction between “seriousness of problems” and “exemplar responsibility” should arise. Pre-test In a pre-test, 39 participants (27 female, 12 male; aged between 18 and 20 years) rated the extent to which several existing fundraising organizations organizations were known and the extent to which the kind of disease for which they were raising funds was severe or not. The results showed that Aids was considered to be the most severe disease, whereas asthma was considered to be the least severe disease. The Aids fundraising organization and the asthma fundraising organization were equally well known. In a second pre-test, 37 participants (29 female, 8 male; aged between 19 and 22 years) rated two examples of individuals suffering from asthma that differed with respect to the cause of this suffering (hereditary or incessant cigarette smoking). The results showed that the latter were held more responsible for the trouble they were in than the former. Material As in the previous experiments, the two fundraising letters for the Aids victims were used. Next, two fundraising letters for Asthma patients were designed that differed with respect to the exemplar’s responsibility for the trouble he was in. The manipulation was based on the

Authors: Hoeken, Hans. and Hustinx, Lettica.
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the desert heuristic. Comparisons showed that the desert heuristic appeared to apply only to
the fundraising attempt in favor of people suffering from obesity. This result suggests that the
answer to the question as to whether application of the desert heuristic depends on the
severity of the problem is affirmative.
However, there is a rival explanation. Whereas the fundraising organizations for the Aids
victims, heart disease patients, and homeless alcoholics were well known in the Netherlands,
many participants expressed spontaneously that they had never heard about the
organization raising money for obese people. Therefore, another explanation for the
application of the desert heuristic for the obese people may be as follows. When responding
to well-known fundraising organizations, people rely on previously formed attitudes and
intentions to decide whether to donate money or not. When responding to a request by an
unknown fundraising organization, they may have to construct their attitude from scratch,
thereby relying on the desert heuristic. In order to test this rival explanation, a third
experiment was conducted.
Experiment 3

The aim of this experiment was to assess whether the desert heuristic is applied only in case
of a fundraising request of a previously unknown organization or in case of less serious
problems. To that end, three factors were manipulated:
1. The responsibility of the exemplar in the fundraising letter (responsible or not)
2. The severity of the trouble people are in (life threatening or not)
3. Familiarity with the fundraising organization (well-known or unknown).

If the desert heuristic is only applied in the case of an unknown organization, an interaction
between “familiarity with the organization” and “exemplar responsibility” should arise. If the
desert heuristic is only applied in case of less serious problems, an interaction between
“seriousness of problems” and “exemplar responsibility” should arise.
Pre-test

In a pre-test, 39 participants (27 female, 12 male; aged between 18 and 20 years) rated the
extent to which several existing fundraising organizations organizations were known and the
extent to which the kind of disease for which they were raising funds was severe or not. The
results showed that Aids was considered to be the most severe disease, whereas asthma
was considered to be the least severe disease. The Aids fundraising organization and the
asthma fundraising organization were equally well known. In a second pre-test, 37
participants (29 female, 8 male; aged between 19 and 22 years) rated two examples of
individuals suffering from asthma that differed with respect to the cause of this suffering
(hereditary or incessant cigarette smoking). The results showed that the latter were held
more responsible for the trouble they were in than the former.
Material

As in the previous experiments, the two fundraising letters for the Aids victims were used.
Next, two fundraising letters for Asthma patients were designed that differed with respect to
the exemplar’s responsibility for the trouble he was in. The manipulation was based on the


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