One death is a tragety, a million dead is a statistic.
It really seems to be true.
- We're more generous to a suffering individual than the needy masses
After completing an irrelevant questionnaire, hundreds of participants were invited to contribute their participation fee to Save the Children. As expected, control participants donated more if the charity was promoted using a story about the plight of a 7-year-old girl than if it was promoted using statistics about the millions facing starvation in Zambia. This discrepancy disappeared when participants were educated about the bias (either explicitly, by describing the bias to them, or implicitly by presenting suffering statistics alongside a single case-study). Crucially, however, the discrepancy was removed because participants subsequently gave less after reading about a single case-study, rather than because they gave more after reading about widespread suffering.
I don't think there's any evolutionary pressure to change this either.
son of parnas
March 6th, 2007 3:07pm
Empathetic type conversion failure.
The person object's empathy method can't take a people object as an argument.
There are other ways this phenomena manifests in behavior.
March 6th, 2007 3:18pm
yep. humans have a tremendous capacity for compassion when it comes to another individual.
the potential amount of caring diminishes by each added person because we tend to care for only a few people on a regular basis. most of us care for family members and friends. we can displace our concern from these "regulars" to someone new, but usually not for more than this number.
you'll notice this effect while watching a movie as well. if you're truly engrossed in a movie, you won't be thinking about those you're attached to normally.
the truly great humanitarians have a very large "regular" group they care for. so, displacing from this set to another large set is conceivable.
March 6th, 2007 3:23pm
> The person object's empathy method can't take a people object
You mean it can't take a BigArray as a param.
March 6th, 2007 3:23pm
I think it is just much harder to put yourself in the shoes of a group than it is an individual.
Hmmm... programmers as more empathetic because they deal with collections of objects more often?
March 6th, 2007 3:25pm
"You mean it can't take a BigArray as a param"
There isn't enough memory space for the pointer.
March 6th, 2007 3:27pm
Who the heck says programmers are more empathetic? I doubt it.
March 6th, 2007 3:28pm
That's why it was a question.
There's an inherent bias against it in that they tend to favor dealing with machines over people.
March 6th, 2007 3:44pm
Empathy fatigue. Didn't that 7-year old see what happened to the last million 7-year olds in her situation? What about her mother - didn't she see? Get the heck out of there.
That's the thought process. Right or wrong.
March 6th, 2007 4:47pm
Whoa, I didn't think I could see the human race as any more dim-witted a species. Oh well...
March 6th, 2007 6:08pm