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Blood donation and altruism: the mechanism of altruism (MOA) approach

Ferguson, Eamonn; Lawrence, Claire

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Claire Lawrence


Is blood donation a pure altruistic act? The answer to this question has profound implications for the type of interventions we can adopt and the way in which research is conducted into blood donor behaviour. This review will address this question and the implications of the answer by introducing the mechanisms of altruism (MOA) approach. As a behaviour, it is argued that blood donation, is altruistic, but the motivation for the act may not be. The MOA approach draws on insights from biology, economics and psychology to identify the key MOA that can be used to describe the motivations of blood donors. The MOA requires identifying congruency between self-report measures of motivations and behavioural indices of MOA derived from economic games. Using the MOA approach, we will show that blood donation is not pure altruism (caring about the welfare of others at personal expense) but rather a mixture of warm-glow giving (finding the act of donation emotionally rewarding) and reluctant altruism (cooperation in the face of free-riding rather than punishment of free-riders). With motivations that are not purely altruistic, six novel avenues for interventions are described: (1) charitable and financial incentives, (2) guilt priming, (3) norms focused on donor rates, (4) voluntary reciprocal altruism (VRA) (5) warm-glow appeals and (6) empathizing with a single case. We show how the MOA approach provides a framework for other theoretical models and present a model of donor motivation across the donation cycle.


Ferguson, E., & Lawrence, C. (2016). Blood donation and altruism: the mechanism of altruism (MOA) approach. ISBT Science Series, 11,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 29, 2015
Publication Date Jan 29, 2016
Deposit Date Jul 27, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jul 27, 2017
Journal ISBT Science Series
Print ISSN 1751-2816
Electronic ISSN 1751-2824
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Ferguson, E. and Lawrence, C. (2016), Blood donation and altruism: the mechanisms of altruism approach. VOXS, 11: 148–157, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


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