Monday, May 14, 2012

image motivation for organ donation

Facebook hopes to increase organ donation registration by encouraging people to list their donation status on their profiles.

I love this story (of course). Image motivations are incredibly important for prosocial behavior. That much I'm sure of. So on the surface this seems like a fantastic idea.

But this also entails establishing a new norm of making your status public. If donation statuses were simply automatically public, I'm sure registration would be high. But if first publicity itself has to be established as a norm, I'm not so sure. Norm formation is a big fat mystery.

And that's especially true in this case. Big businesses that aren't well-loved aren't in a good position to form norms. (Maybe Google would have a better chance.) And facebook is so fragmented/gadget-driven now that anyone without a listed status will be dismissed as not using the list, not not having the status. And listing your status doesn't just signal your altruism, it signals something about your use/opinion of facebook. And, lying is easy (although the article is optimistic that your listed status might carry some weight on its own, if not legally, then with family who must make a decision on your behalf.)

Or maybe the nobleness of the goal will render moot facebook's role. I certainly hope that's the case. I'm just not so optimistic as the people saying it will be a historic event in organ donation.

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