Effects of Battle and Journey Metaphors on Charitable Donations for Cancer Patients

AbstractHaving cancer is often described metaphorically as a battle (“my fight against cancer”) or as a journey (“my path through cancer treatment”). Previous experimental work has demonstrated that these metaphors can influence people's reasoning and emotional inferences about experiences with cancer (Hendricks, Demjén, Semino, & Boroditsky, 2018; Hauser & Schwarz, 2019). However, it is currently unknown how the use of these metaphorical frames translates into behavioral changes, such as the likelihood and magnitude of charitable giving. Using hand-labeled data from more than 5,000 GoFundMe cancer-related campaigns, we ask how a campaign’s use of metaphor predicts several measures of donation behavior beyond what other control variables predict (e.g. shares on Facebook). We find that the presence of either metaphor family (battle or journey) has a positive effect on campaign success and donation behavior.

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