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Exemplars and the Application of the Desert Heuristic When Responding to Fundraising Attempts
Unformatted Document Text:  15 Discussion The main aim of this experiment was to test two rival explanations of the desert heuristic effect in the second experiment. That effect could have been the result of the fundraising organization being unfamiliar, or of the problem being perceived as less serious. The results enable us to rule out the explanation that the desert heuristic is only applied when responding to a new organization. Being familiar with the fundraising organization had no effect at all on the intention to donate money. The seriousness of the problem, however, did. More participants were inclined to donate money for the less serious disease when the exemplar was considered not at fault for being in trouble. This attribution of fault had no effect for the life threatening disease. Apart from this effect, the results again replicated the finding that the exemplar in the fundraising letter influences general responsibility perception. A fourth experiment was conducted to address two further issues. First, a heuristic has to be available, accessible, and relevant in order for it to be applied. The relevance of the desert heuristic for a fundraising context is evident. However, whether the participants knew the heuristic (availability) and retrieved the heuristic when responding to the fundraising letter (accessibility) has not been checked. In the fourth experiment, we checked whether participants knew the desert heuristic and manipulated its accessibility. For half of the participants, the desert heuristic was primed before reading and responding to the fundraising letter. In this way, it was possible to assess whether priming the heuristic led to an increase of the use of the heuristic. The second issue that was addressed in this experiment was the extent to which cultural differences play a role in applying the desert heuristic. Brunel and Nelson (2000) showed that male and female participants differed in their responses to fundraising ads of the International Cancer Society. Female participants were more convinced by fundraising ads that stressed the fact that they would be helping others, whereas male participants were more convinced by ads that stressed the fact that they would help themselves (because they enabled the development of successful treatments that could save their lives if they were to get cancer). Brunel and Nelson show that this effect is the result of a difference in moral worldviews held by men and women. Men seem to be more justice oriented, whereas women seem to be more caring oriented. This gender difference could have played a role in our study as well. That is, if male participants are indeed more justice oriented, they would be more likely to apply the desert heuristic; if the female participants are more caring oriented, they would help regardless of whether they felt the victims were to blame or not. However, we did not find any interaction between gender and the responsibility manipulation in any of the experiments. This absence may have been the result of a cultural difference between the United States and The Netherlands. According to Hofstede (1984, 2001), the United States can be considered a masculine culture, whereas The Netherlands is a much more feminine culture. This difference is mainly reflected in the distinction between gender roles. In a masculine culture, men are expected to be aggressive and achievement oriented, whereas women are expected to focus on the quality of life. In a feminine culture, these gender differences are much less pronounced. Both men and women are expected to be caring. Therefore, gender effects are more likely to surface in masculine cultures (such as the US), than in feminine cultures (such as The Netherlands). To assess whether the application of the desert heuristic depends on the masculinity or femininity of a culture, an experiment was conducted in which the responses of participants from a masculine culture were compared to those of a feminine culture.

Authors: Hoeken, Hans. and Hustinx, Lettica.
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15
Discussion

The main aim of this experiment was to test two rival explanations of the desert heuristic
effect in the second experiment. That effect could have been the result of the fundraising
organization being unfamiliar, or of the problem being perceived as less serious. The results
enable us to rule out the explanation that the desert heuristic is only applied when
responding to a new organization. Being familiar with the fundraising organization had no
effect at all on the intention to donate money. The seriousness of the problem, however, did.
More participants were inclined to donate money for the less serious disease when the
exemplar was considered not at fault for being in trouble. This attribution of fault had no
effect for the life threatening disease. Apart from this effect, the results again replicated the
finding that the exemplar in the fundraising letter influences general responsibility perception.
A fourth experiment was conducted to address two further issues. First, a heuristic has
to be available, accessible, and relevant in order for it to be applied. The relevance of the
desert heuristic for a fundraising context is evident. However, whether the participants knew
the heuristic (availability) and retrieved the heuristic when responding to the fundraising letter
(accessibility) has not been checked. In the fourth experiment, we checked whether
participants knew the desert heuristic and manipulated its accessibility. For half of the
participants, the desert heuristic was primed before reading and responding to the
fundraising letter. In this way, it was possible to assess whether priming the heuristic led to
an increase of the use of the heuristic.
The second issue that was addressed in this experiment was the extent to which cultural
differences play a role in applying the desert heuristic. Brunel and Nelson (2000) showed that
male and female participants differed in their responses to fundraising ads of the
International Cancer Society. Female participants were more convinced by fundraising ads
that stressed the fact that they would be helping others, whereas male participants were
more convinced by ads that stressed the fact that they would help themselves (because they
enabled the development of successful treatments that could save their lives if they were to
get cancer). Brunel and Nelson show that this effect is the result of a difference in moral
worldviews held by men and women. Men seem to be more justice oriented, whereas women
seem to be more caring oriented.
This gender difference could have played a role in our study as well. That is, if male
participants are indeed more justice oriented, they would be more likely to apply the desert
heuristic; if the female participants are more caring oriented, they would help regardless of
whether they felt the victims were to blame or not. However, we did not find any interaction
between gender and the responsibility manipulation in any of the experiments. This absence
may have been the result of a cultural difference between the United States and The
Netherlands. According to Hofstede (1984, 2001), the United States can be considered a
masculine culture, whereas The Netherlands is a much more feminine culture. This
difference is mainly reflected in the distinction between gender roles. In a masculine culture,
men are expected to be aggressive and achievement oriented, whereas women are
expected to focus on the quality of life. In a feminine culture, these gender differences are
much less pronounced. Both men and women are expected to be caring. Therefore, gender
effects are more likely to surface in masculine cultures (such as the US), than in feminine
cultures (such as The Netherlands). To assess whether the application of the desert heuristic
depends on the masculinity or femininity of a culture, an experiment was conducted in which
the responses of participants from a masculine culture were compared to those of a feminine
culture.


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