Author 1: Ramona De Luca
Author 2: Mateus Ferreira

Abstract :

espite the economic and social changes occurred in Brazil in the last decade, which created a favorable scenario for the prosperity of charitable giving, Brazilian philanthropic landscape still has to deal with some barriers, such as the lack of trust in nonprofit institutions, the absence of incentives for donation, and the change in family and personal values. This article theoretically discusses the phenomenon of philanthropy in Brazil under the guilt hypothesis and comes up with propositions that may inspire future research. We propose that activating a negative emotion, such as guilt, increases individuals’ donation intentions and the intended amount of donation to charitable organizations even more than positive emotions, such as empathy. We also propose that the activation of the emotion of guilt has a stronger effect on individuals that are high (versus low) in consumer materialism value. Finally, we discuss possible theoretical, managerial and public policy implications.

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Ramona De Luca ,Mateus Ferreira

PhD Candidate at FGV – EAESP

PhD Candidate at FGV – EAESP

.Email: dl.ramona@libero.it                Email: mateus5588ferreira@hotmail.com

Phone: +55 (11) 972615252             Phone: (11) 3799-7700

                  Delane Botelho                Sponsoring Information

           Associate Professor at FGV – EAESP       We would like to thank CAPES - Coordenação de

São Paulo School of Business Administration, Brazil.                Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior

Email: delane.botelho@fgv.br (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Phone: (11) 3799-7700 Personnel) for providing financial support for our PhD








espite the economic and social changes occurred in Brazil in the last decade, which created a favorable scenario for the prosperity of charitable giving, Brazilian philanthropic landscape still has to deal with some barriers, such as the lack of trust in nonprofit institutions, the absence of incentives for donation, and the change in family and personal values. This article theoretically discusses the phenomenon of philanthropy in Brazil under the guilt hypothesis and comes up with propositions that may inspire future research. We propose that activating a negative emotion, such as guilt, increases individuals’ donation intentions and the intended amount of donation to charitable organizations even more than positive emotions, such as empathy. We also propose that the activation of the emotion of guilt has a stronger effect on individuals that are high (versus low) in consumer materialism value. Finally, we discuss possible theoretical, managerial and public policy implications.

Keywords: Charitable Behavior, Helping Behavior, Guilt, Donation, Consumer Materialism.


1.     Introduction

Over the last decade the economic, political and social changes occurred in Brazil have created favorable conditions for the growth of philanthropy. Several governmental measures have consistently decreased inequality, distributed welfare more fairly, and stimulated consumption amongst population. Despite poverty still represents a serious problem in Brazil, the Brazilian government has been developing several measures to attempt to reduce the social inequality, distribute the country's wealth more fairly, and better allocate the income amongst its population. Some of these measures have produced significant results in terms of economic growth, such as increasing the minimum wage and cash transfers program (e.g. bolsa família). As shown by a report from the World Bank (2013), poverty has fallen markedly, from 21% of the population in 2003 to 11% in 2009, with numbers continuing to fall. 

Although the increased well-being should have led to a more optimistic view of life, which generally induces philanthropic and helping behaviors, evidences suggest that Brazilians do not engage as much as they could in charitable actions. The fall of Brazil from the 91st position in 2012 to the 105th position in 2015 in the ranking of the World Giving Index (WGI), confirms that Brazilian philanthropy still has to deal with some obstacles, such as the lack of trust, and the perceived weakness of civil society.

Our discussion suggest that Brazilian philanthropy has interesting opportunities as well as great challenges to deal with to become a leading force among the BRIC countries in terms of social investment. Beyond the social, economic and political factors influencing the giving behavior, Spero (2014), in her report Charity and Philanthropy in Russia, China, India and Brazil, notes that religion, family, and personal values have played a central role in the development of charitable giving in the country. 

Many reasons may have inhibited charitable behaviors among Brazilians, such as the perceived weakness of the civil society, the lack of trust in institutions and the absence of tax incentives for monetary donations. Considering that philanthropy promotes social progress, society development and international cooperation, the paradox of Brazilian philanthropy deserves more investigations. In particular, more attention should be payed to determinants and motivations that inspire monetary donation behaviors. 

Previous studies have shown that negative emotions, such as guilt, may regulate donation behaviors (Bennett, 2003), elicit individuals’ positive reactions (Ghingold, 1981), and increase intention to donate. In particular, the experience of guilt has recently received a greater attention by practitioners and theorists, who have focused on its impact on donation intention (Smith & McSweeney, 2007), and on the amount donated (Basil, Ridgway, & Basil, 2006). Personal values, such as consumer materialism, are considered also crucial in increasing donation intentions and the amount donated. In spite of the lack of consensus on how different levels of consumer materialism can influence individuals’ attitude toward charity, it is widely recognized that materialism as a consumer value may play a determinant role in driving people donation intentions (Richins & Rudmin, 1994). In our review, first, we discuss the role of a negative emotion, such as guilt, in determining positive attitudes toward charitable giving and helping behavior, in terms of: i) increased donation intentions, which refers to people’s intention to donate to any charitable organization; and ii) the amount of donation, which refers to the outcome of the donation (Desmet & Feinberg, 2003). We also evaluate theoretically the role of the individual level of consumer materialism on such effect, and discuss possible theoretical implications for future research.  

We believe that a discussion of the phenomenon of philanthropy under the guilt hypothesis may appear of theoretical and practical relevance. Theoretically, this article may suggest a relation between negative emotions (e.g. guilt), personal values (e.g. consumer materialism), and the donation behavior. In practice, we expect to inspire the application of new methodologies to future research in the field and provide insights for marketing practice. 

2.     Philanthropy in Marketing


2.1 Helping Behavior and Charitable Giving

Studies on philanthropy and generic helping behaviors has been representing a multidisciplinary field in social sciences since the 1980s (Katz, 1999). However, because the literature in the field is fragmented in different disciplines, there is no consensus about definitions and determinants of helping behavior and charitable giving by individuals and households (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). Studies on philanthropy in the field of social psychology have explored the concept of helping behavior more in general (Batson, 1998; Schroeder, Dovidio, Penner, & Piliavin, 1995; Schwartz, 1975).

Helping behavior can be defined as a behavior that provides benefits to individuals other than the one who performs the behavior (Peck & Feldman, 1986). Also, it is a type of prosocial or voluntary behavior defined as intended to benefit another individual (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989). Brief and Motowidlo (1986) identifies several activities through which prosocial behavior benefits other people or the society as a whole, such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering. Such actions can be motivated by the altruistic concern about the welfare of others as well as by egoistic concerns (Eisenberg & Mussen, 1989). 

Empathy is a strong motivation in eliciting prosocial behavior and is strongly connected to the issue of the well-being of social groups (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004). People are more likely to help others when they share a sense of empathy with the individual requiring assistance; that is, when individuals are members of a social group they experience a greater feelings of closeness with the other members, emotional arousal and personal responsibility for the other’s welfare, which increase the motivation to act prosocially (Dovidio, Piliavin, Gaertner, Schroeder, & Clark, 1991). 

Bekkers and Wiepking (2011) identify donation and charitable giving as a particular type of helping behavior in the social psychological literature. Interest in the construct is shared by many disciplines including marketing, economics, social psychology, biological psychology, neurology and brain sciences, sociology, political science, anthropology, biology, and evolutionary psychology. However, charitable giving gained popularity in mainstream social psychology toward the end of the 1970s and continued to be studied in applied social psychology in the 1980s. Charitable giving is defined as “the donation of money to an organization that benefits others beyond one’s own family” (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011, p. 925). In particular, charitable giving differs from many other forms of helping behavior in the way that the beneficiary of the donation is usually absent from the context in which the donation is made, while the beneficiary is present in other helping situations (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). The presence or the absence of the beneficiary strongly influences the motivation for this kind of helping behavior.

In an extensive literature review on more than 500 articles on charitable giving aiming of understanding why people donate money to organizations, Bekkers and Wiepking (2011) found eight different mechanisms that can be considered as predictors of philanthropy: awareness of need, solicitation, costs and benefits, altruism, reputation, psychological benefits, values and efficacy. These mechanisms are classified with the basis of how they differ from one another with respect of three dimensions: “what?”, which refers to the nature of the object of donation and distinguishes between tangible and intangible objects; “where?”, which refers to the location of the act of donating and distinguishes between a mechanism that occurs within or between individuals; and “who?”, which refers to characteristics of the parties involved in the donation and distinguishes between beneficiaries and donors. Those mechanisms are summarized in the section below.


2.2 Donation Behavior: a Categorization

Donation behavior has been widely investigated in several disciplines, such as economics, sociology, psychology, and marketing. Empirical evidences have shown that some circumstances may encourage giving behaviors (Rietschlin, 1998; Schwartz, 2003), and regulate individuals’ donation intention (Bennett, 2003). According with results emerged from the extent research on the topic, eight mechanisms may stimulate giving behaviors (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). These mechanisms summarized below are: (i) awareness of need; (ii) solicitation; (iii) costs and benefits; (iv) altruism; (v) reputation; (vi) psychological benefits; (vii) values; and (vii) efficacy. 

Awareness of need is the prerequisite for philanthropy and refers to the necessary condition in which people become aware that someone needs for support. This need may be tangible (e.g., food, medication, treatment), social (e.g., a need for company), or psychological (e.g., consolation) (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). 

Solicitation refers to the mere act of being solicited to donate. Studies have shown that the majority of all donation acts occur in response to a solicitation (Bryant, Slaughter, Kang, & Tax., 2003). Solicitation may be tangible (e.g., a fundraising letter) or intangible (e.g., a personal request). Different methods used to solicit the potential donor determine different levels of the effectiveness of solicitations (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). 

Costs and benefits refers to the consequences associated with a monetary value (Clark & Wilson, 1961). With regard to costs, donating money may have tangible (e.g., money itself), and intangible consequences (e.g., obstacles, physical discomfort). In some situations, the act of donating symbolizes an exchange between the donor and the organization. This is the example of the donation to medical research, to a hospital or to any service that the donor may use at some later point of his/her life with the aim of relieving their own future health (Burgoyne, Young, & Walker, 2005). 

Altruism appears as an obvious reason why individuals engage in donating and giving behaviors. Altruistic motivation refers to the feeling of caring about the organization’s output and the beneficiaries’ well-being (Andreoni, 2006). Another mechanism which explains why individuals donate is reputation, which refers to the social consequences of donations for the donor; that is, other people in the social environment explicitly or implicitly reward the donors for giving, give them recognition and social approval or punish them for not giving. That is because giving is usually viewed as a positive thing to do, in particular, when giving decreases inequality (Brickman & Bryan, 1975). 

Donating leads not only to social benefits but also to psychological benefits for the donor. The mechanism of psychological benefits refers to the intangible benefits that come from donating, and to the intangible costs that donors avoid by donating. Several studies have shown that giving may contribute to one’s selfimage as an altruistic, empathic, socially responsible, or influential person (Muehleman, Bruker, & Ingram, 1976). Moreover, the act of giving may simply produce positive psychological consequences for the helper, such as general positive moods (Strahilevitz & Myers, 1998).

Reputation refers to the social consequences that donating bring to the donor’s self-image. In other words, reputation consists of a public expression of appreciation to individuals who undertake the desired behaviors (Fisher & Ackerman, 1998).

Attitudes and values also represent mechanisms that may stimulate donating. When the donors favor specific values, such as humanitarianism and egalitarianism (Fong, 2007), prosocial values (Bekkers, 2007) and altruistic values (Farmer & Fedor, 2001), giving behaviors appear more attractive to them in the way that endorsement of prosocial values generally has a positive association with charitable giving (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011).  

Efficacy refers the intangible consequences for the donors who perceive their contributions to the charitable organization as having positive effects on philanthropy (Jackson & Mathews, 1995; Parsons, 2007). Empirical evidences demonstrated that individuals who perceive their contribution unhelpful for the cause are less likely to provide help (Smith & McSweeney, 2007) or donate (Wiepking, Madden, & McDonald, 2010).

3.     Guilt in Marketing Research

Numerous marketing studies have demonstrated that induced negative emotions can positively affect consumers’ behaviors (Ghingold, 1981). Specifically, guilt has received significant attention from both practitioners (Hesz & Neophytou, 2010; Roberts, 2009) and academics (Cotte, Coulter, & Moore, 2005; Duhachek, Agrawal, & Han, 2012). Theorists differentiate between guilt as a state and guilt as a trait (Cohen, Wolf, Panter, & Insko, 2011; Tangney & Dearing, 2002). Guilt has been defined as a multidimensional and affective-cognitive concept which designates both, a personality disposition and an episodic emotion (Izard, 1977; Mosher, 1980). In particular, guilt as a trait has been defined as a “generalized expectancy for self-mediated punishment for violating an internalized moral standard” (Mosher, 1980, p. 602). When experienced as an emotion (e.g. guilt state), it refers to the painful experience of regret, remorse, self-blame and self-punishment experienced upon committing or contemplating committing a transgression (Izard, 1977). 

Guilt may also refers to a key emotion in self-regulation processes (Eisenberg, 2000; Vohs, Baumeister, & Tice, 2008), as an outcome of self-regulation failures (Zemack-Rugar, Corus, &, Brinberg, 2012), and as a mechanism which provides the motivation to control behavior and self-regulation (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton, 1995). However, guilt can be experienced also as a feeling of general responsibility for an outcome or wrongdoing (Tracy & Robins, 2007; Zimmermann, Abrams, Doosje, & Manstead, 2011).

Literature on the topic have identified that the emotion of guilt regulates individuals’ behavior when: i) guilt is determined by advanced cognitive processes that require an individual to simulate alternative courses of behavior or remember past actions (Tracy & Robins, 2007); and ii) the experience of the feeling of guilt requires individuals to be able to associate the self to certain negative outcomes (Doosje, Branscombe, Spears, & Manstead, 1998). Accordingly, the negative emotion of guilt plays an important role in regulating many consumption processes (Antonetti & Baines, 2014). 

However, the academic literature on the topic is separated in two sub-disciplines: the one which evaluates the persuasiveness of guilt appeals (O’Keefe 2000, 2002) and the one which focuses on the experience of guilt in consumer situations and on its role in regulating decision-making (Goldsmith, Cho, & Dhar, 2012; Soscia 2007). The emotion of guilt can be experienced, in marketing, as a consequence of communications and guilt-appeals which aim at its elicitation, as well as a consequence of a consumption choice. Individuals, for example, feel a sense of guilt when deciding to eat unhealthy foods (Durkin, Rae, & Stritzke, 2012), or buying products that are not environmentally friendly (Carrus, Passafaro, & Bonnes, 2008). This compartmentalization results in many unsolved questions that have both theoretical and practical relevance. For example, it is unclear: 1) whether appeals based on guilt are effective in marketing communications (Lindsey, Yun, & Hill, 2007); 2) under what circumstances working with guilt is ethically fair (Arthur & Quester, 2003); 3) what are the differences and similarities between experiencing guilt elicited by marketing communications and experiencing guilt during consumption situations (Baumeister, Vohs, DeWall, & Zhang, 2007). In both cases, different forms of guilt experiences can be elicited. 

Marketers generally differentiate between two different forms of guilt: anticipatory and reactive guilt (Cotte et al., 2005; Izard, 1977; Rawlings, 1970). Anticipatory guilt, also called reflective guilt (Janis, Mall, Kagan, & Holt, 1969), is experienced when a potential negative outcome, that might be generated in the future, is considered by the individual. This type of consumer guilt is generally experienced in reaction to the contemplation of a transgression (Rawlings, 1970). Reactive guilt is experienced in response to an act contradicting one’s moral standards or as the consequence of an action that has happened in the past and has created negative consequences for the individuals (Rawlings, 1970). Both forms of guilt can be elicited through guilt appeals (Huhmann & Brotherton, 1997) or experienced during consumption (Antonetti & Baines, 2014). 

4.     Propositions: Guilt and Empathy

In both elicitation contexts (e.g. guilt elicited through marketing communications and guilt experienced in consumption situations), several mechanisms can be used by researches to elicit guilt: i) the unconscious activation of the concept (Goldsmith et al., 2012); ii) the association of guilt with marketing appeals (Tracy & Robins, 2004), or with specific consumption occasions (Aarts, Custers, & Holland, 2007; Damasio, 1994); iii) the anticipation of the experience of guilt; and iv) the creation of cognitive association between guilt and other emotional states (Goldsmith et al., 2012). 

Few studies have previously highlighted that the feeling of guilt lead to larger charitable donations (Basil et al., 2006; Smith & McSweeney, 2007). The findings of the study conducted by Basil et al. (2006) have shown that appeals based on guilt are associated with a greater amount of donation to charitable organizations. Lastly, Smith and McSweeney (2007) found that respondents who anticipated the feeling of guilt for not giving were more likely to give. Accordingly, we propose that: 

P1: The activation of guilt outside of awareness increases individuals’ donation intention more than the activation of the concept through guilt-based advertising. 

P2: The activation of guilt outside of awareness increases the amount of donation more than the activation of the concept through guilt-based advertising. 

Previous studies have highlighted a strong connection between giving behaviors and emotions (George & Brief, 1992; Roos, Hodges, & Salmivalli, 2014). In particular, these studies have found that when individuals are in a good mood they are more likely to engage in helping behaviors (George & Brief, 1992). Oppositely, there are certain negative moods (e.g. guilt) that encourage prosocial behaviors (Ketelaar & Au, 2003), whereas other negative mood states (e.g. fear), do not (Roos et al., 2014). 

The act of giving itself may yield psychological benefits for the donor, such as producing a positive mood, alleviating feelings of guilt, reducing aversive arousal, satisfying a desire to show gratitude, or to be a morally just person (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). Helping others produces positive psychological consequences for the helper, sometimes labeled “empathic joy” (Batson & Shaw, 1991). The terms empathy refers to the ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another person (Granzin & Olsen, 1991), and to experience greater feelings of closeness and personal responsibility for the other’s welfare (Dovidio et al., 1991). Empathy may act as a strong impulse to engage in prosocial behaviors (Helliwell & Putnam, 2004). Studies on the relationship between empathy and donation behavior have demonstrated that when people feel a sense of empathy with the individual requiring assistance, they are more likely to help and donate (Dovidio et al., 1991). 

Beyond empathy, there are several reasons why humans may have pleasurable psychological experiences on giving, such as the desire of reducing feelings of guilt, feeling good for acting in line with a social norm, or feeling good for acting in line with an altruistic self-image. When the social norm implies the act of giving, those who feel bad about themselves for violating the norm are more likely to give, in the way that not giving would entail feelings of guilt, shame, or dissonance with one’s self-image (Schwartz, 1970). 

Harris, Benson and Hall (1975) conducted a study by comparing donations among people entering a church during confession hours and people leaving church after confession, when their guilt had been reduced. Consistent with the guilt hypothesis, the former group donated more often than the latter, so we propose that:

P3: The activation of a negative emotion (e.g. guilt) outside of awareness increases individuals’ donation intention more than the activation of a positive emotion (e.g. empathy).

P4: The activation of a negative emotion (e.g. guilt) outside of awareness increases the amount of donation more than the activation of a positive emotion (e.g. empathy).

5.     Consumer Materialism

Personality and individual characteristics of the donor and the beneficiary may moderate the relationship between guilt and donation intentions, such as: i) religion (Yinon & Sharon, 1985); ii) race (Bryan & Test, 1967; Gaertner & Dovidio, 1977); iii) gender (Bryan & Test, 1967); iv) social attitudes (Sole, Marton, & Hornstein, 1975); v) educational institution (Aune & Basil, 1994); and vi) personal values (Richins & Rudmin, 1994). Consumer materialism is a particular kind of personal value that has gained consideration as a determinant of donor behaviors (Belk, 1985; Bennett, 2003). In particular, different perspectives of how individuals’ level of materialism influences the relationship between guilt and charitable giving have been discussed in the literature (Belk, 1984; Bennet, 2003); however, its role in moderating this relationship has been only limited explored by researchers (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011).

The original term of materialism refers to the philosophical notion that nothing else exists except matter and its movements (Lange, 1865). In popular usage materialism more often refers to a "devotion to material needs and desires, to the neglect of spiritual matters; a way of life, opinion, or tendency based entirely upon material interests” (Richins & Dawson, 1998, p. 304). Several definitions of materialism are shared by many disciplines. Rassuli and Hollander (1986, p. 10) describe materialism as “a mind-set, an interest in getting and spending”; Belk (1984, p. 291) defines materialism as “the importance a consumer attaches to worldly possessions”. Mukerji (1983, p. 8) refers to materialism as “a cultural system in which material interests are not made subservient to other social goals and material self-interest is preeminent”. Many issues concerning materialism have been considered in the literature, including causes and consequences of materialism, the behaviors and personality characteristics of materialists, and moral considerations (Belk, 1983). 

Richins and Dawson (1998) were the first theorists who conceptualized materialism as a consumer value, while others have simply indirectly discussed the nature of the construct by considering related personality traits and social variables. Richins and Dawson (1998) identified three dimensions of consumptionmaterialism: acquisition centrality, acquisition as the pursuit of happiness and possession-defined success. 

Acquisition centrality refers to the materialists’ tendency to place possessions and their acquisition at the center of their lives (Richins & Dawson, 1998). Daun (1983) describes materialism as a life-style in which a high level of material consumption functions as a goal for the individual. 

Acquisition as the pursuit of happiness refers to the materialists’ tendency to see possession and acquisition as essential to their satisfaction and well-being in life. At the highest levels of materialism, possessions assume a central place in a person's life and are believed to provide the greatest sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction (Belk, 1984). Ward and Wackman (1971, p. 426) describe materialism as an orientation emphasizing possessions and money for personal happiness and social progress. 

The dimension of possession-defined success refers to materialists’ tendency to judge their own and others' success by the number and quality of possessions accumulated. Rassuli and Hollander (1986, p. 5) describe members of a consumer society as evaluating others and themselves in terms of their consuming life-styles. Materialists consider material well-being as evidence of success (Du Bois, 1955). However, the value of possessions stems not only from their ability to confer status but also from their ability to affirm the individual desired self-image of having achieved a perfect life (Campbell, 1987). Therefore, materialists view themselves as successful to the extent they can possess products that project these desired images. 

6.     Proposition: Consumer Materialism and Donation

In the study of how and why people engage in charitable giving, consumer materialism has been hypothesized as a significant determinant of donation behaviors (Belk, 1985; Bennett, 2003). However, few empirical evidences have previously confirmed the role of consumer materialism in regulating donation behaviors (Bennet, 2003). In the investigation of the relationship between consumer materialism and individuals’ attitude toward charity, people with high levels of materialism are recognized to be ungenerous (Belk, 1985), selfish and insecure (Chiagouris & Mitchell, 1997), characteristics which lead to avoid sharing possessions with others. 

In particular, the concept of non-generosity refers to the unwillingness to give possessions to or share possessions with others, to the “reluctance to lend or donate possessions to others, and to a negative attitude toward charity” (Belk, 1985, p. 268). Non-givers tend to exhibit lower levels of sympathy and empathy, and generally exhibit higher levels of materialism than givers (Sargeant, Ford & West, 2000). Moreover, the trait of non-generosity leads materialistic and envious persons to expect that helping others will not be appreciated (Belk, 1984). As materialists are selfishly motivated, they don’t feel personally responsible for the other’s welfare (Andreoni, 2006; Dovidio et al., 1991). Therefore, we propose that:


P5: Individuals with high (versus low) levels of consumer materialism are, in general, less willing to donate to charitable organizations. 


Oppositely to Belk (1985), Bennett (2003) suggests that materialistic values might influence charity donor behavior by motivating individuals to give to certain charitable organizations that are compatible with their personal values. The increased donation behavior in materialists is, in this way, due to the need and the desire of the individuals to appear in a good manner to the world around them (e.g. those that offer a high level of public recognition). In other words, the act of donation represents a message both to the ego of the individual making the gift and to society at large (Bennett, 2003). Consistent with Bennett (2003) definition of materialism, we propose that:


P6: Individuals with high (versus low) levels of consumer materialism are more willing to donate to charitable organizations only when the donation results in a public recognition. 


7.     Proposition: Consumer Materialism and Emotions

It is generally believed that high-materialism consumers experience positive emotions and satisfaction as a consequence of the purchase process (Richins, 2013). Empirical evidences have shown that highmaterialism consumers who purchase luxury products generally report higher levels of perceived well-being than high-materialism consumers who do not (Hudders & Pandelaere, 2012). Moreover, a recent study has highlighted that high-materialism consumers are more likely than low-materialism ones to experience positive product-evoked emotions (e.g. joy, excitement and contentment) during the purchase (Richins, 2013). However, the greater happiness and excitement are something momentary: since materialists tend to get their pleasure from material goods, positive emotions associated with the purchase are not durable and dissipate after the purchase (Richins, 2013).

Studies exploring affective processes associated with materialism have produced mixed results. Nicolao, Irwin and Goodman (2009) have found no support for the relationship between materialism and the perceived happiness associated with the purchase. More recent evidences have shown that materialists are generally less happy than those lower in materialism, and experience fewer positive and more negative emotions in daily life (Kashdan & Breen, 2007). Accordingly, high-materialism consumers report greater negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear, and envy (Richins & Dowson, 1992). 

These conflicting results may be due to the independence of positive and negative affect (Diener & Emmons, 1984; Watson & Tellegen, 1985). That is, individuals might simultaneously experience any combination of positive and negative emotions—the presence of both, the absence of both, or the presence of one but not the other (Richins, 2013). For instance, materialists may experience feeling of happiness for the acquisition of products that express their identities (Dittmar, Long & Bond, 2007; Richins, 2011) but, at the same time, greater anxiety about making the right choice during the purchase due to the high value materialists place on goods. Moreover, while high-materialists generally report greater negative emotions of anxiety and fear compared with their low-materialist counterparts, the use of the desired products may lead to feeling of gratification and happiness which reduce the incidence of negative feelings (Richins, 2013). Since materialists place a high value on goods and are more inclined to engage in impulse buying behaviors (Podoshen & Andrzejewski 2012), it is expected that they are more likely to experience product-related guilt. However, because products occupy a central role in their daily lives, materialists tend to justify their purchases to reduce guilt (Richins, 2013). 

Accordingly, we believe that high-materialism individuals are more generous when experience feeling of guilt for not giving. Materialists experience more negative than positive product-evoked emotions but tend to reduce the feeling of guilt mentally justifying their purchases (Richins, 2013). In the context of giving and donating the feeling of guilt may not be simply associated with an impulsive acquisition of an unnecessary product: it stems from the desire to be recognized from the society as a morally just person (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). Other people in the environment explicitly or implicitly reward the donors for giving through social approval and recognition or punish them for not giving (Brickman & Bryan, 1975). Therefore, materialists feel guilty when not donating represents a threat to their self-identity goals (Antonetti & Baines, 2014, pp.4), self-image (Schwartz, 1970) and self-consciousness of having achieved a perfect life (Campbell, 1987). The feeling of guilt for not giving is more difficult to justify since it leads to a dissonance with a desired self-image (Schwartz, 1970), and to a threat to one’s reputation (Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011). Accordingly, we propose that: 

P7: The effect of activating guilt on individuals’ donation intention is stronger for high-materialism donors (rather than for low-materialism donors).


P8: The effect of activating guilt on individuals’ amount of donation is stronger for high-materialism donors (rather than for low-materialism donors).


8.     Final Remarks

The propositions presented in this paper may stimulate research on how consumers cope with the negative emotion of guilt when it is activated with the aim of encouraging charitable giving. Our approach may reveal counterintuitive and surprising effect of guilt on charitable giving; that is, guilt may increase donation intentions even more than positive emotions such as empathy. These propositions contradict the traditional perspective which states that people are more likely to engage in charitable behaviors when they share a sense of closeness with the individual who requires help, which increases the individual motivation to act prosocially (Dovidio et al., 1991).

Our research also explores the moderating role of the individual personality trait of consumption materialism. Oppositely to the most traditional perspective of Belk (1985), who ascribes to materialists the specific trait of non-generosity, we adopt the point of view of Bennett (2003), which states that consumer materialism might regulate charity donor behavior in the way that individuals who strongly desire to achieve recognition, and social approval from the society as a whole, are more likely to involve in giving behaviors.  

From a methodological point of view, we suggest to activate the concept of guilt outside of awareness (Wyer & Srull, 1989), instead of showing participants a guilt-based advertising. This unconventional way of manipulating guilt suggests that there are innovative and alternative methods of eliciting emotions and provides researchers new theoretical and methodological insights on how to induce the feeling of guilt in both marketing communications and decision-making contexts and, thus, increase charity. Moreover, the activation of the concept of guilt outside awareness contributes to create new opportunities for managers and advertisers to elicit guilt in other situations overcoming the traditional boundaries of marketing appeals. 

The unconscious activation of the emotion of guilt may also lead to ethical implications. As the stimuli are less aware, it is expected that the psychological impact of the feeling of guilt on individuals exposed to the stimuli is less threatening when compared with that of marketing appeals or consumer experiences. Considering the importance of charitable organizations and the difficulty they face in acquiring resources, there may be implications here for public policies and charitable institutions on how to expand fundraising actions based on the perspectives we presented.

Based on our approach there also may be implications for managers, advertisers and marketers on how to work with emotions and what emotion is more adequate when the aim is inducing charitable behavior. The propositions we came with suggest managers that eliciting a negative emotion, such as guilt, may promote empathic, thus positive, behaviors. Moreover, we suggest that in some cases this effect may be also stronger than when charitable behavior is induced by eliciting emotions with positive valence, such as empathy. 

This paper has some limitations. Our discussion does not clarify under what circumstances working with guilt is ethically acceptable (Arthur & Quester, 2003) in both contexts of the persuasiveness of guilt appeals (O’Keefe 2000) and of guilt as the mechanisms which regulate decision-making in consumption situations (Goldsmith et al., 2012). We hope to stimulate future research that investigate the emotional side of philanthropy in marketing contexts. Future studies are needed to verify our propositions and provide empirical evidences that contribute to the advance of the growing body of knowledge on the constant interplay between emotions and charitable behavior. 



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Keywords: Charitable Behavior Helping Behavior Guilt Donation Consumer Materialism. DOI

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