I gave blood in the campus blood drive yesterday. On my way to the blood mobile, I was wondering (in a slightly apprehensive state) why am I doing this? What is my real incentive for going through with such an inconvenient and uncomfortable hassle?
That question inspired me to look into these two Freakonomics articles (link 1, link 2) that investigate exactly that question. I was interested to find that Chinese citizens are paid, about $12 a go, for their donations. Interestingly, there are conflicting findings about the effect of incentives on US blood donations. An older study actually indicated that it decreased donation rates, perhaps by diminishing the donors’ sense of altruism. A recent study, though, found exactly the opposite.
The reason why I donated? Because I got asked directly. It’s a lot easier to avoid saying yes than to say no to a direct ask. And it turned out, it wasn’t so bad after all. They were closing up at my appointment so I got to go home with two big cartons of chocolate milk and a bunch of bananas.
So even though the chocolate milk wasn’t an incentive per se, it sure was a nice bonus!