Making and unmaking cosmopolitans: an experimental test of the mediating role of emotions in international development appeals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • University of Louisville
  • UCL


Objective: In this article, we test whether emotions mediate the effect of international development appeals on cosmopolitanism and donation behavior.

Methods: We design and conduct a lab experiment to test the impact of representations of global poverty on participants’ cosmopolitan sentiments and their likelihood to donate to development charities. We use multiple mediation analysis to test the intervening role of six emotional responses—anger, guilt, solidarity, hope, repulsion, and pity—as causal pathways to our two outcomes of interest: cosmopolitanism and donations.

Results: Hope is the most consistent and powerful pathway through which appeals affect respondents’ sense of cosmopolitanism and willingness to donate. Negative imagery and text erode people's sense of hope, but drive donations, particularly via guilt.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest we should move away from a mono-causal view of emotional responses to disaster and development imagery, and provide a cautionary tale for practitioners: using negative imagery can undermine the public's sense of hope and cosmopolitanism.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-564
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date7 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas