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Did you know that our willingness to help is influenced by the extent to which we perceive poverty as something that can be changed?

April 2024

In a recent study, ISS researchers Sophia Wingen and Thomas Graczyk together with Tobias Wingen and Simone Dohle from the Institute of General Practice and Family Medicine at the University Hospital Bonn examined the psychological determinants of willingness to help. In doing so, they applied the concept of a growth mindset of poverty — the subjective belief that poverty is changeable.

The study results suggest that even brief statements about supposed changeability can be enough to promote a growth mindset of poverty among people. On the one hand, this led to a stronger belief in the positive outcome of help, which increased the willingness to help. At the same time, however, people also tended to blame those needing help for their poverty, which reduced their willingness to help.

They also showed that the type of help offered by a charitable organization is decisive for how willing people are to help. Only if an organization offered help for self-help did a growth mindset lead to significantly more willingness to help. If, on the other hand, the organization offered direct help such as food, the mindset was no longer decisive, as outcome expectancies were low regardless of the mindset.

The way the public views poverty, talks about it, and assists is therefore very important.