Increased generosity under COVID-19 threat

Sci Rep. 2022 Mar 31;12(1):4886. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-08748-2.


In the face of crises-wars, pandemics, and natural disasters-both increased selfishness and increased generosity may emerge. In this paper, we study the relationship between the presence of COVID-19 threat and generosity using a four-year longitudinal dataset (N = 696,942) capturing real donations made before and during the pandemic, as well as allocations from a 6-month dictator game study (N = 1003 participants) during the early months of the pandemic. Consistent with the notion of "catastrophe compassion" and contrary to some prior research showing a tendency toward self-interested behavior under threat, individuals across both datasets exhibited greater financial generosity when their county experienced COVID-19 threat. While we find that the presence of threat impacted individual giving, behavior was not sensitive to threat level. Our findings have significant societal implications and advance our understanding of economic and psychological theories of social preferences under threat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Natural Disasters*