The polite wiggle-room effect in charity donation decisions

Marie Juanchich, Miroslav Sirota et Jean-François Bonnefon


We extend research on charity donations by exploring an everyday tactic for increasing compliance: asking politely. We consider three possible effects of politeness on charity donations: a positive effect, a negative effect, and a wiggle‐room effect where the perception of the request is adjusted to decline donating without feeling selfish. Results from six experiments systematically supported the polite wiggle‐room effect. In hypothetical donations contexts, indirect requests were judged more polite. In real donation contexts, though, indirect requests were not judged as more polite and had no consistent effect on donation decision. Rather, the decision to donate predicted the perceived politeness of the request, independently of its phrasing. Experiment 4 provided causal evidence that participants justified their donation decisions by adjusting their perception of the request. The polite wiggle‐room effect has important implications for organizations that seek to increase compliance while maintaining a positive image.

Publié dans

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, vol. 32, n° 2, avril 2019, p. 179–193