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Exemplars and the Application of the Desert Heuristic When Responding to Fundraising Attempts
Unformatted Document Text:  3 asthma, arthritis, et cetera. All of these people are in need of support. Central to the desert heuristic is the question whether or not the people who need support can be held responsible for the trouble they are in. Weiner, Perry, and Magnusson (1988) showed that participants were more inclined to help a person suffering from a disease for the contraction of which he or she could, in general, not be held responsible (e.g., having a heart disease) than to help people suffering from a disease for the contraction of which he or she could (again: in general), be held responsible (e.g., being obese). These results suggest that the participants employed the desert heuristic. In a second experiment, Weiner et al. (1988) again provided participants with information about people in trouble. In this experiment, Weiner et al. succeeded in reversing this inclination to support a person having a heart disease while declining support for a person suffering from obesity. They did so by providing participants with information about the cause of these people being in trouble. For instance, it was said that the heart patient got the disease as a result of an unhealthy life style, and that the obese patient suffered from glandular dysfunction. These results underscore the importance of the perception of responsibility. When people are held responsible for getting into trouble, their chances of getting help are diminished. Weiner et al. (1988) used descriptions of specific patients, and participants indicated whether they were willing to support this specific patient. Fundraising organizations, however, try to raise money for groups of patients suffering from a disease. Instead of asking for support for a specific patient with a specific background, they ask for support for a category of patients. In other words, the fundraising letter elicits a social category attitude. Such attitudes can be stored in memory as a stereotype, that is, a real or imagined person who represents this social category (Smith, 1998; Smith & Zarate, 1992). These stereotypes play an important role when a social category attitude is evoked (Sia, Lord, Blessum, Thomas & Lepper, 1999). Changing stereotypical images through exemplars Stereotypes are not stable structures that are always retrieved in the same form from memory. Coats and Smith (1999) show that stereotypes are not so much retrieved as well as reconstructed, and that the reconstruction process is sensitive to the context. Coats and Smith presented participants with exemplars such as Archie Bunker (from “All in the family”) or Dan Connor (from “Roseanne”) and subsequently had them describe the stereotypical “blue collar worker”. As it turned out, the characteristics generated by the participants differed as a result of the exemplar (Archie Bunker or Dan Connor) they were confronted with before the test. Presenting people with an exemplar influences their stereotypical image of a social category. The use of exemplars is a powerful tool to influence people’s perceptions (Brosius, 2001; Zillmann & Brosius, 2000). Brosius and Bathelt (1994) presented their participants with base-rate information, for instance, that a large number of people no longer liked apple wine. Next, the participants heard five short interviews in which the interviewed people indicated whether they liked or disliked apple wine. It appeared that when a majority (4 out of 5) of the interviewed people indicated they liked apple wine, the participants concluded that a majority liked apple wine despite the fact that the base-rate information proved them wrong. Several experiments have shown the effect that exemplars have a strong effect on people’s judgment even when they are presented with base rate information that indicates the opposite (Gibson & Zillmann, 1994), or with information that the exemplar differs from the ”normal”, and therefore should not be considered representative (Hamill, Wilson & Nisbett, 1980).

Authors: Hoeken, Hans. and Hustinx, Lettica.
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asthma, arthritis, et cetera. All of these people are in need of support. Central to the desert
heuristic is the question whether or not the people who need support can be held responsible
for the trouble they are in. Weiner, Perry, and Magnusson (1988) showed that participants
were more inclined to help a person suffering from a disease for the contraction of which he
or she could, in general, not be held responsible (e.g., having a heart disease) than to help
people suffering from a disease for the contraction of which he or she could (again: in
general), be held responsible (e.g., being obese). These results suggest that the participants
employed the desert heuristic.
In a second experiment, Weiner et al. (1988) again provided participants with
information about people in trouble. In this experiment, Weiner et al. succeeded in reversing
this inclination to support a person having a heart disease while declining support for a
person suffering from obesity. They did so by providing participants with information about
the cause of these people being in trouble. For instance, it was said that the heart patient got
the disease as a result of an unhealthy life style, and that the obese patient suffered from
glandular dysfunction. These results underscore the importance of the perception of
responsibility. When people are held responsible for getting into trouble, their chances of
getting help are diminished.
Weiner et al. (1988) used descriptions of specific patients, and participants indicated
whether they were willing to support this specific patient. Fundraising organizations,
however, try to raise money for groups of patients suffering from a disease. Instead of asking
for support for a specific patient with a specific background, they ask for support for a
category of patients. In other words, the fundraising letter elicits a social category attitude.
Such attitudes can be stored in memory as a stereotype, that is, a real or imagined person
who represents this social category (Smith, 1998; Smith & Zarate, 1992). These stereotypes
play an important role when a social category attitude is evoked (Sia, Lord, Blessum,
Thomas & Lepper, 1999).
Changing stereotypical images through exemplars

Stereotypes are not stable structures that are always retrieved in the same form from
memory. Coats and Smith (1999) show that stereotypes are not so much retrieved as well as
reconstructed, and that the reconstruction process is sensitive to the context. Coats and
Smith presented participants with exemplars such as Archie Bunker (from “All in the family”)
or Dan Connor (from “Roseanne”) and subsequently had them describe the stereotypical
“blue collar worker”. As it turned out, the characteristics generated by the participants differed
as a result of the exemplar (Archie Bunker or Dan Connor) they were confronted with before
the test. Presenting people with an exemplar influences their stereotypical image of a social
category.
The use of exemplars is a powerful tool to influence people’s perceptions (Brosius, 2001;
Zillmann & Brosius, 2000). Brosius and Bathelt (1994) presented their participants with base-
rate information, for instance, that a large number of people no longer liked apple wine. Next,
the participants heard five short interviews in which the interviewed people indicated whether
they liked or disliked apple wine. It appeared that when a majority (4 out of 5) of the
interviewed people indicated they liked apple wine, the participants concluded that a majority
liked apple wine despite the fact that the base-rate information proved them wrong. Several
experiments have shown the effect that exemplars have a strong effect on people’s judgment
even when they are presented with base rate information that indicates the opposite (Gibson
& Zillmann, 1994), or with information that the exemplar differs from the ”normal”, and
therefore should not be considered representative (Hamill, Wilson & Nisbett, 1980).


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