Research by Rima Touré-Tillery, associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School (Northwestern University), and Lili Wang, of Zhejiang University wrote “The Good-on-Paper Effect: How the Decision Context Influences Virtuous Behavior.”

« People are more likely to engage in virtuous behavior when they make their selections on paper than when they are using a digital device. »

« To investigate their “good on paper” hypothesis, the research team approached 200 adults walking downtown in a large American city and asked them to complete a survey. Half of the participants were given a pen and paper to complete the survey and the other half an iPad. Both versions used a similar layout and font.

Next, as a cover for the true intent of the study, participants were asked to indicate their preferences between coffee and tea, basketball and football, and several other neutral options. Then they saw a charitable appeal from a nonprofit organization called No Kid Hungry. Participants were given the option of providing their email address to receive more information about how to donate. The researchers used this choice—whether to provide an email address—as their indicator of virtuous behavior.

There was a marked difference in response rates between the paper and tablet surveys: 20 percent of pen-and-paper participants provided their email address, as compared with just 7 percent of tablet-using participants. “This was a pretty robust effect,” Touré-Tillery says.

The researchers ran another, similar experiment at a large university in China—this time asking participants to provide a cell-phone number to learn more about a volunteer opportunity. Once again, many more pen-and-paper participants (34 percent) handed over their numbers than tablet participants (21 percent).  »

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