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Exemplars and the Application of the Desert Heuristic When Responding to Fundraising Attempts
Unformatted Document Text:  8 version would have required a large number of additional participants, or having fewer participants read each version of the letters. Given statistical power concerns, the intermediate responsibility version was left out. 4. The first experiment’s population validity problem was also addressed. Only students took part in the first experiment. They formed a homogeneous but a-typical sample. In the second experiment, participants differed more widely with respect to age and level of education. The main goal of the second experiment was to replicate the first experiment’s findings that different exemplars influence perceived responsibility, using different topics and a much more varied sample, and to test whether the absence of an effect on the attitude measure was the result of a ceiling effect or of the disease’s severity. Method Pretest Thirty-five participants (24 women, 11 men, aged between 20 and 24 years) received descriptions of three individuals who had different problems: a person suffering from a heart disease, a homeless alcoholic, and a person suffering from obesity. For each person, two different causes for the problems were sketched. For instance, the obese person could be fat as a result of being unable to stick to a diet (responsible) or as a result of glandular dysfunction (not responsible). In the pre-test, participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they held the different patients responsible for the trouble they were in. There were two versions of the questionnaire in which the order of the descriptions was varied. The results showed that the responsibility manipulation was successful. In all three cases, the responsible person was held more responsible than the not-responsible person (heart disease: M = 1.89, SD = 0.96 versus M = 6.57, SD = 0.92; t (34) = 15.89, p < .001; homeless alcoholic: M = 2.34, SD = 1.06 versus M = 4.43, SD = 1.58; t (34) = 7.24, p < .001; obese person: M = 1.91, SD = 0.82 versus M = 6.43, SD = 0.70; t (34) = 21.86, p < .001). The results of the pre-test were used to manipulate the different versions of the fundraising letters. The material Fundraising letters for four existing fundraising organizations were used. The fundraising organizations were the Dutch Aids Fund, the “Hartstichting” (the Dutch organization supporting people suffering from a heart disease), the “Leger des Heils” (the Dutch branch of the Salvation Army supporting homeless alcoholics, inter alia), and the “Vereniging Obesitas Nederland” (a Dutch organization supporting obese people). For each organization, two versions of the letter were written. In the case of the Aids Fund, the responsible and not-responsible versions of the first experiment were employed. Using the results of the pre-test, responsible and not-responsible versions of the other three fundraising letters were written. The letters only differed with respect to the cause of the exemplar having heart problems (“hereditary” versus “unhealthy eating habits and smoking cigarettes”), becoming a homeless alcoholic (“having lost his family and job as a result of a car crash” versus “having lost his family and job because of social drinking becoming uncontrollable”), or being obese (“suffering from glandular dysfunction” or “not being able to stick to a diet”). The number of words and the number of sentences used were identical.

Authors: Hoeken, Hans. and Hustinx, Lettica.
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version would have required a large number of additional participants, or having fewer
participants read each version of the letters. Given statistical power concerns, the
intermediate responsibility version was left out.
4. The first experiment’s population validity problem was also addressed. Only students
took part in the first experiment. They formed a homogeneous but a-typical sample. In
the second experiment, participants differed more widely with respect to age and level of
education.
The main goal of the second experiment was to replicate the first experiment’s findings that
different exemplars influence perceived responsibility, using different topics and a much more
varied sample, and to test whether the absence of an effect on the attitude measure was the
result of a ceiling effect or of the disease’s severity.
Method

Pretest

Thirty-five participants (24 women, 11 men, aged between 20 and 24 years) received
descriptions of three individuals who had different problems: a person suffering from a heart
disease, a homeless alcoholic, and a person suffering from obesity. For each person, two
different causes for the problems were sketched. For instance, the obese person could be fat
as a result of being unable to stick to a diet (responsible) or as a result of glandular
dysfunction (not responsible). In the pre-test, participants were asked to indicate the extent to
which they held the different patients responsible for the trouble they were in. There were two
versions of the questionnaire in which the order of the descriptions was varied.
The results showed that the responsibility manipulation was successful. In all three
cases, the responsible person was held more responsible than the not-responsible person
(heart disease: M = 1.89, SD = 0.96 versus M = 6.57, SD = 0.92; t (34) = 15.89, p < .001;
homeless alcoholic: M = 2.34, SD = 1.06 versus M = 4.43, SD = 1.58; t (34) = 7.24, p < .001;
obese person: M = 1.91, SD = 0.82 versus M = 6.43, SD = 0.70; t (34) = 21.86, p < .001).
The results of the pre-test were used to manipulate the different versions of the fundraising
letters.
The material

Fundraising letters for four existing fundraising organizations were used. The fundraising
organizations were the Dutch Aids Fund, the “Hartstichting” (the Dutch organization
supporting people suffering from a heart disease), the “Leger des Heils” (the Dutch branch of
the Salvation Army supporting homeless alcoholics, inter alia), and the “Vereniging Obesitas
Nederland” (a Dutch organization supporting obese people).
For each organization, two versions of the letter were written. In the case of the Aids
Fund, the responsible and not-responsible versions of the first experiment were employed.
Using the results of the pre-test, responsible and not-responsible versions of the other three
fundraising letters were written. The letters only differed with respect to the cause of the
exemplar having heart problems (“hereditary” versus “unhealthy eating habits and smoking
cigarettes”), becoming a homeless alcoholic (“having lost his family and job as a result of a
car crash” versus “having lost his family and job because of social drinking becoming
uncontrollable”), or being obese (“suffering from glandular dysfunction” or “not being able to
stick to a diet”). The number of words and the number of sentences used were identical.


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