Context: Many of the alternatives for procuring donor organs are considered either ineffective, unethical, or illegal. One possibility that may not face such challenges is a priority system whereby individuals who register as an organ donor are given priority to receive an organ over those who have not registered. However, providing extrinsic rewards can sometimes paradoxically reduce the target behavior, especially for those who are more altruistically motivated.

Methods: Two behavioral experiments were employed and data were analyzed using regressions as well as examining open-ended responses.

Findings: The results suggest that giving priority to receive an organ to those who register to donate postmortem could increase overall registration rates. Further, the effect of providing priority appears to work by inducing anticipated regret, which can be used to overcome common obstacles to registration. Finally, it was found that a priority system is most effective in increasing donor rates for those individuals who are less altruistically motivated and does not reduce registration rates for those who are more altruistically motivated.

Conclusions: Given the unabated shortage of transplant organs, the finding that a priority system could increase the willingness to register as a donor without crowding out altruistically motivated individuals is highly encouraging.

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