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Health Psychol. 2008 May;27(3):327-36. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.3.327.

Blood donation is an act of benevolence rather than altruism.

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  • 1Risk Analysis, Social Processes and Health Group, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.



Blood donation is described as an archetypal altruistic behavior, and recruitment/retention campaigns emphasize altruism. Here, a benevolence hypothesis for blood donation (both the donor and recipient benefit) rather than the altruism hypothesis (only the recipient gains) is proposed.


Three United Kingdom-based studies contrasted benevolence and altruism: (a) a 6-month prospective study of blood donor behavior (Study 1: N = 957), (b) a cross-sectional study of blood donors' intentions (Study 2: N = 333), and (c) an experimental study examining the effect of benevolent and altruistic messages on willingness to help across high- and low-cost helping behaviors for committed and noncommitted blood donors (Study 3: N = 200).


Donor behavior and intentions-willingness.


Beliefs in personal and societal benefit (Time 1) and actual donations (Time 2) were assessed in Study 1; beliefs in benevolence, altruism, hedonism, and kinship along with donation intentions were assessed in Study 2; and empathy, donor commitment, and willingness to donate blood, money, fund-raise, and staff a telephone helpline were assessed in Study 3.


Beliefs in personal rather than societal benefit predicted actual future donation. A path model showed that only beliefs in benevolence were associated with intentions to donate. Committed blood donors were more willing to donate blood when exposed to a benevolent message rather than an altruistic one. This effect was not observed for other forms of helping.


The benevolence hypothesis is supported, suggesting that blood donor motivation is partly selfish. Blood donation campaigns should focus on benevolent rather than purely altruistic messages.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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