A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology suggests that appealing to the moral elements of Buddhist teachings might encourage more people to donate blood. The researchers found that people with stronger Buddhist beliefs were more likely to say they would donate blood, and this was partly explained by increased moral attentiveness.
Around the globe, blood collection agencies are looking for strategies to draw people to donation centers. Research from the fields of psychology and sociology may provide some answers, with studies honing in on the motivations that drive people to donate blood.
One of these studies, led by researcher Liangyong Chen, theorized that the Buddhist belief system likely encourages benevolent actions like blood donation, through its strong focus on morality. Buddhism, a religion that is most widespread in Asia, involves the belief that enlightenment comes from achieving “moral perfection.” Teachings include compassion, empathy, and loving-kindness, and a central belief in Karma — the idea that good actions draw positive consequences and bad actions draw negative consequences.
Chen and colleagues posit that the Buddhist practice promotes a psychological process called moral attentiveness — the extent that a person recognizes and considers morality in their day-to-day experiences. People who are morally attentive are more aware of moral behaviors and more likely to carry them out.
The researchers recruited a sample of 508 participants via a Chinese social networking app. The respondents completed questionnaires that assessed Buddhists beliefs, moral attentiveness, self-monitoring, and the intention to donate blood.
As expected, respondents who scored higher in Buddhist beliefs reported stronger intentions to donate blood — this was after controlling for age, gender, education, social desirability, blood donation experiences, and self-perceived health. Further, Buddhist belief was indirectly related to intention to donate through moral attentiveness (e.g., “I often reflect on the moral aspects of my decisions/behavior”). This suggests that the moral aspect of Buddhism partly explains why respondents with stronger Buddhist beliefs were more likely to want to donate blood.
The researchers also theorized that not all people with Buddhists beliefs are necessarily morally attentive, and this likely depends on self-monitoring — the extent that a person tends to adjust their behavior to conform to social situations. The study found evidence to support this, showing that the indirect effect of Buddhist belief on intention to donate was strongest among people who were high in self-monitoring (e.g., “I can adjust my behavior to meet the requirements of any situation I am in”). Further, Buddhist belief was only related to increased moral attentiveness among respondents with high self-monitoring.
In short, people with strong Buddhist beliefs demonstrated greater moral attentiveness, and in turn, were more likely to say they would donate blood. This was especially true if they were high in self-monitoring.
The authors say their findings offer insight into how religious belief can be leveraged to encourage charitable behavior, such as blood donation. Components of Buddhism can be included in blood drive campaigns, for example, by appealing to the morality and selflessness of giving blood, or nodding to the principles of Karma by highlighting blood donation as a “good deed.” More broadly, advertisements might increase moral attentiveness by including messages that lead the public to reflect on morality.
Chen and colleagues say that future research should consider other moderators that may be at play in addition to self-monitoring. For example, culture might play a role, with collectivist countries being particularly focused on community and social ties. There may also be additional aspects of Buddhism that drive intention to donate, such as mindfulness.
The study, “How Buddhist beliefs relate to blood donation intention: The role of moral attentiveness and self-monitoring”, was authored Liangyong Chen, Sai Zhang, Yufeng Zhou, and Mo Xiao.