Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1084: Subliminal Influence on Generosity

Ola Andersson (), Topi Miettinen , Kaisa Hytönen , Magnus Johannesson and Ute Stephan
Additional contact information
Ola Andersson: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Topi Miettinen: Hanken School of Economics, Postal: HECER, & PCRC at the University of Turku
Kaisa Hytönen: Aalto University
Magnus Johannesson: Stockholm School of Economics
Ute Stephan: Aston Business School

Abstract: We experimentally prime subjects subliminally prior to charity donation decisions by showing words that have connotations to prosocial values for a very short duration of time (17ms). Our main finding is that, compared to a baseline condition, the prosocial prime increases donations with about 10–17 percent among subjects with strong prosocial preferences. A similar effect is also found in our data when interacting the prime with the personality characteristic of BigFive agreeableness. We also contribute with providing an arguably better method for testing for "sublimity". The method reveals that some subjects are capable of recognizing some of the prime words, and the results are overall weaker when we control for this capacity.

Keywords: Charity; Subliminal; Priming; Universalism; Values; Personality

JEL-codes: C91; D01; D03

46 pages, September 18, 2015

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