Stories about organ recipients most effective, UO prof says

Paul Slovic at his desk

That donating organs can save lives is one thing almost everyone can agree on, but opinions vary on the best way to convince more people to sign up to donate their body parts after death.

According to a recent study done by several researchers, including UO psychology professor Paul Slovic, one way may be to tell the story of organ recipients, not the donors.

As it stands, donors generally receive more media attention than recipients. But the study found reading about the donor led to less willingness to donate, especially in cases where the donor has died since the operation.

And the opposite was true for those who read about recipients: They were more receptive towards donation. To determine this, the researchers asked 650 undergraduate students to read various types of materials on organ donation then fill out a questionnaire to gauge their receptiveness to donating their own organs.

“Identifying the deceased donor tended to lead to thoughts of death rather than about saving lives,” the study’s abstract says. Furthermore, “A study of online news revealed that identification of the donor is significantly more common than identification of the recipient in coverage of organ donation cases — with possibly adverse effects on the incidence of organ donations.”

For more, see “Study shows people reading about organ donor recipients more receptive to donating than when reading about donors” on Medical Xpress.

Slovic studies judgment and decision processes with an emphasis on decision-making under conditions of risk. His research on compassion fatigue in regard to mass killings and genocides has been featured widely in media outlets around the country.