Arvid Erlandsson

Postdoktor, knuten till universitetet


Hej jag heter Arvid Erlandsson, och jag är för närvarande anställd som postdoktor vid Linköpings Universitet men undervisar och handleder även deltid på Lunds Universitet. Jag disputerade i januari 2015 och mina forskningsintressen är moralpsykologi, de sociala aspekterna av hjälpande samt framförallt beslutsfattande i hjälpsituationer.

Min avhandling handlade om att olika hjälpeffekter (identifierbarhetseffekten, proportionsdominanseffekten och in-gruppseffekten) drivs primärt av olika psykologiska mekanismer (känslor, nyttokalkyler eller moraliska principer om ansvar). Se en sammanfattning av avhandlingen samt läs om andra pågående projekt nedan (på engelska).

Studenter som är intresserade av forskning och vill vara delaktiga i något av våra projekt (antingen som forskarassistentet eller i samband med uppsatsskrivande) är mycket välkomna att höra av sig. 


Min doktorsavhandling (på engelska)

My thesis is about the when and why of charitable giving. To understand why it is interesting and important to do research about charitable giving, the story about baby Jessica is often used as an example.

Jessica McClure was only 18 months old when she fell down a well in her parents’ garden in Midland, Texas October 1987. After three days of intense and non-stop trying and huge media coverage, Jessica was finally saved. During the few days that Jessica was trapped in the well, the American people donated $800,000 to show their support for Jessica and the volunteers in the rescue project. This is often interpreted as a sign of the pure goodness of human beings and a universal tendency to help even totally unknown victims.

However, it is possible to read the whole story from a different perspective. If the million dollars that was donated to Jessica instead would have been donated and earmarked for battling Malaria in developing nations, a much greater number of children would have been saved… How come we help some victims so much, and at the same time we forget other victims totally?

The when-question of helping

One way to approach this question is to focus on the situational differences. These helping effects are about how concrete, objective factors in the helping-situation or in the request for help can increase or decrease helping motivation. In my research, I have specifically focused on three situational differences:

  1. The Identified victim effect:
    We are more motivated to help when there is a single determined identified victim than when there are many statistical victims. Baby Jessica was a single identified victim whereas the victims in the developing nations were undetermined and statistical.
  2. The Proportion dominance effect:
    We are more motivated to help when we can help a large proportion of the victims. For example, a vaccine project informing that it can save 450 of the 500 children who annually die is likely to get more money than an identical project informing that it can save 450 of 100,000 children.  Baby Jessica was 1 out of 1 victim at risk, meaning that helping her would solve the problem completely. Helping children in developing nations would always be a drop in the bucket.
  3. The In-group effect
    We are more motivated to help victims that are part of our in-group than victims that are part of our out-group. Typical natural in-groups are kin (we are more willing to help a victim who we are genetically related to, even if we do not them personally) and nationality. Baby Jessica was an American girl (in-group victim for American donors) whereas the children in the developing nations were probably seen as the out-group) 

The why-question of helping

Another way to approach the question of helping decisions is to focus on the psychological mechanisms that can increase or decrease helping. These are not about situational differences but rather about what goes on within our heads and what kinds of feelings, thoughts and beliefs that could make us more or less motivated to help. In the classification that I propose, helping can be motivated by the heart, by the head and by the book.

  • Helping with the heart
    Helping with the heart means that you help because you feel strong emotions as a result of learning about a certain situation or about the victims. These emotions can be either self-focused personal distress (I feel bad personally so I help to feel better) or other-focused sympathy (I feel bad for her so I help to make her feel better). The idea that emotional reactions can motivate us to help is much acknowledged.
  • Helping with the head
    Helping with the head means that you help because you experience that you can do a lot of good for a relatively low personal cost. This type of psychological mechanism is not so much about the emotional reactions but more about cost-benefit calculations and perceived efficacy of helping. A heightened perceived efficacy has been shown to increase helping motivation.
  • Helping by the book
    Helping by the book means that you help because you believe that you have a personal responsibility or a duty to help.  In some situations where you believe you have a responsibility to help  (for example if you have caused the need situation), you will be very motivated to help, even when you don’t feel any intense sympathy towards the victim or believe that you can help effectively. A heightened perceived responsibility have been shown to increase helping motivation.

Combining the when and why-questions

The aim of my thesis was to test which psychological mechanisms that underlies different helping effects.  Interestingly, the results showed that different helping effects are primarily driven by different mechanisms.

  1. The Identifiable victim effect is primarily driven by the heart
    The main reason we help identified victims more than statistical victims, is that we feel more emotions when we learn about identified victims, and that these emotional reactions increase our helping motivation. 
  2. The Proportion dominance effect is primarily driven by the head
    The main reason we help projects with a high rescue proportion (e.g. 450 of 500) more than projects with a low rescue proportion (e.g. 450 of 100,000), is that we perceive a higher efficacy when helping a high rescue proportion project, and this heightened perceived efficacy increase helping motivation 
  3. The In-group effect is primarily driven by the book
    The main reason we help in-group victims more than out-group victims is that we believe that we have a higher responsibility to help in-group victims, and this heightened perceived responsibility increase helping motivation.

Senaste forskningsoutput

Artur Nilsson, Henry Montgomery, Girts Dimdins, Maria Sandgren, Arvid Erlandsson & Adrian Taleny, 2020 mar 26, I: European Journal of Personality.

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Arvid Erlandsson, Amanda Lindkvist, Kajsa Lundqvist, Per A. Andersson, Stephan Dickert, Paul Slovic & Daniel Västfjäll, 2020, I: Judgment and Decision Making. 15, 4, s. 452-475 24 s.

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Arvid Erlandsson, Artur Nilsson, Gustav Tinghög, David Andersson & Daniel Västfjäll, 2019, I: Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. 48, 4, s. 814-838

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

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