A fuller understanding of ‘altruism’ associated with blood donation requires understanding how the mechanisms of altruism described by theoretical models in biology, economics and psychology pertain to blood donor behaviour. In a brief overview of the literature I identify seven classes of mechanism and use these to describe the structural geography of blood donors’ altruistic motivational mechanisms. I argue that games from behavioural economics, such as dictator games, should start to be used as behavioural indices of altruistic preferences to supplement self-reports. Indeed, an open question is whether self-reported motivations or behavioural preference are better predictors of future donation. I further develop a series of temporal questions concerning the stability of such motives across the donor career and their changing pattern of prediction. Finally, I discuss methods of demonstrating the causal status of motivations and associated interventions.
Keywords: Mechanisms of altruism, blood donors, economic games, motivations to donate blood, willingness.