If Ignorance is Bliss, What am I Going to Do With all this Data?
|November 30, 2011||Posted by M. P. under Management, Philanthropy, Research||
Could you be putting off potential supporters by over-telling your story or does an abundance of information make people want to support your cause even more?
A study recently published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concludes that people tend to pull back from learning more about complicated, far-reaching problems.
The article, On the Perpetuation of Ignorance: System Dependence, System Justification, and the Motivated Avoidance of Sociopolitical Information by Steven Shepherd and Aaron C. Kay, explains that when people lack knowledge about complex, in-real-time problems they are actually less likely to seek out additional information on the topic than to not do so. In fact, when faced with negative information about large-scale problems – social, economic, environmental – study participants were less motivated to educate themselves about them and instead preferred to put their faith in bureaucracy (the government) to mitigate the problems away.
If unfamiliarity with a topic is associated with being more likely to support another entity taking care of it, it might be tempting for nonprofits to take this evidence and run with a “don’t worry about the facts and figures and all that silly data – we’ll take care of everything with your ($) help” message tone that smacks of condescension and actually may not resonate with supporters. However, too much information, especially negative information, may also turn people off to learning more about the problem and your mission. Paragraphs (and frankly, sometimes just graphs) describing the scope and nature of a problem and how your services assist in solving it are enough to lull some into a deep sleep and along with them, your giving campaign.
How can you link large-scale problems to the needs of the individuals and families you serve each day? Should we just stick to the personal narrative, the heart-tugged struggles and successes at the individual level and forgo mentioning the meta?
What do you think – how can this research be applied to nonprofit messaging?