More pain, more prosocial? Assessing the Martyrdom Effect

ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Vanessa Clemens and Liesbeth Mann
A recommendation of:

Do pain and effort increase prosocial contributions?: Revisiting the Martyrdom Effect with a Replication and extensions Registered Report of Olivola and Shafir (2013)


Submission: posted 30 November 2023
Recommendation: posted 10 April 2024, validated 11 April 2024
Cite this recommendation as:
Rahal, R. (2024) More pain, more prosocial? Assessing the Martyrdom Effect. Peer Community in Registered Reports, .


The Martyrdom Effect is a behavioral tendency in which individuals exhibit greater generosity when their acts of giving entail effort or self-sacrifice (Olivola & Shafir, 2013). Giving at a personal cost, in this mindset, is associated with ascribing and inferring more meaning and value to charitable giving or other forms of generosity than in instances where no particular pain or effort is required to enact prosocial behavior. Arguably, the Martyrdom Effect’s ability to boost prosocial behavior therefore departs from other theories of behavior change postulating that easy options to act prosocially could boost contributions (e.g., default effects in charitable giving, see Altmann et al., 2019; Goswami & Urminsky, 2016). Because they introduce complexity to the debate about encouraging prosocial behavior, three studies from Olivola and Shafir (2013) are now being addressed in this Registered Report by Cheng and Feldman (2024).

Combining these three studies in a high-powered within-subjects replication attempt, transparently communicating necessary deviations from the original design and carefully outlining the analysis strategy, the current study will offer insights into the robustness of prior findings on the role of effort and pain in determining donations.

The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated by two reviewers and the recommender. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol:
Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA.
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
1. Altmann, S., Falk, A., Heidhues, P., Jayaraman, R., & Teirlinck, M. (2019). Defaults and Donations: Evidence from a Field Experiment. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 101, 808-826.
2. Cheng, Y. T. & Feldman, G. (2024). Do pain and effort increase prosocial contributions?: Revisiting the Martyrdom Effect with a Replication and extensions Registered Report of Olivola and Shafir (2013). In principle acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports.
3. Goswami, I., & Urminsky, O. (2016). When should the Ask be a Nudge? The Effect of Default Amounts on Charitable Donations. Journal of Marketing Research, 53, 829-846.
4. Olivola, C. Y., & Shafir, E. (2013). The Martyrdom Effect: When Pain and Effort Increase Prosocial Contributions. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 26, 91-105.
Conflict of interest:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

Reviewed by , 10 Apr 2024

Evaluation round #1

DOI or URL of the report:

Version of the report: 1

Author's Reply, 27 Mar 2024

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Revised manuscript:

All revised materials uploaded to:, updated manuscript under sub-directory "PCIRR Stage 1\PCI-RR submission following R&R"

Decision by ORCID_LOGO, posted 04 Mar 2024, validated 04 Mar 2024

Dear Dr. Feldman,

I have now received two reviews of your submission on a replication project addressing Olivola and Shafir (2013). In line with my own reading of your manuscript, the reviewers highlight important strengths of your outlined approach, but also note some areas for further improvement. In line with these suggestions, I would like to invite you to revise the manuscript. 

The suggestions focus largely on clarifications needed regarding the power analysis as well as specific statements of how analyses inform the conclusions drawn about the hypotheses, with some additional requests to clarify the terminology and procedure. These issues fall within the normal scope of a Stage 1 evaluation and can be addressed in a comprehensive round of revisions. 


Rima-Maria Rahal


Reviewed by , 23 Feb 2024

Reviewed by , 01 Mar 2024

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