Warming up cool cooperators

Eamonn Ferguson*, Claire Lawrence, Sarah Bowen, Carley N. Gemelli, Amy Rozsa, Konrad Niekrasz, Anne van Dongen, Lisa A. Williams, Amanda Thijsen, Nicola Guerin, Barbara Masser, Tanya E. Davison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Explaining why someone repeats high-cost cooperation towards non-reciprocating strangers is difficult. Warm glow offers an explanation. We argue that warm glow, as a mechanism to sustain long-term cooperation, cools off over time but can be warmed up with a simple intervention message. We tested our predictions in the context of repeat voluntary blood donation (high-cost helping of a non-reciprocating stranger) across 6 studies: a field-based experiment (n = 5,821) comparing warm-glow and impure-altruism messages; an implementation study comparing a 3-yr pre-implementation period among all first-time donors in Australia (N = 270,353) with a 2-yr post-implementation period (N = 170, 317); and 4 studies (n = 716, 1,124, 932, 1,592) exploring mechanisms. We show that there are relatively warm and cool cooperators, not cooling cooperators. Cooperation among cool cooperators is enhanced by a warm-glow-plus-identity message. Furthermore, the behavioural facilitation of future cooperation, by booking an appointment, is associated with being a warm cooperator. Societal implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1917-1932
Number of pages16
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


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