Sympathy And Callousness: The Impact Of Deliberative Thought On Donations To Identifiable And Statistical Victims

Small, Deborah A.; Loewenstein, George; Slovic, Paul, (2007). Sympathy And Callousness: The Impact Of Deliberative Thought On Donations To Identifiable And Statistical Victims. Organizational Behavior And Human Decision Processes, 102, 2, 143–153.


Discipline: P, s, y, c, h, o, l, o, g, y

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Related tools: Effectiveness info: deliberation

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Charity target: Poverty-Poor Country

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Paper summary


Study 3: “individuals who faced an identifiable victim donated more than those who faced victim statistics, p < .01, and also donated more than those who faced an identifiable victim in conjunction with statistics, p < .05.”

Study 4: “ Priming analytic thinking reduced donations to an identifiable victim relative to a feeling-based thinking prime. Yet, the primes had no distinct effect on donations to statistical victims, which is symptomatic of the difficulty in generating feelings for these victims.” [Note that the latter non-effect appears tightly bounded.]

Further results on emotional mediators/channels

Ideas42: > Researchers gave study participants the opportunity to donate $0-5 to famine relief efforts at Save the Children (n = 159). One group received letters that included a picture and brief description of a little girl. A second group received letters describing factual information about food security, and a third group received letters with both the little girl’s profile and factual information. The photo and description prompted an emotion-based response, raising more than twice as much money as the factual solicitation. Including factual information with the girl’s profile reduced this effect, with no significant difference in giving between those who received both pieces and those who received factual information only


Basic design has key strengths: Double-blind, real donations, distractors, careful use of language ,
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Citations: 265


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This paper has been added by David Reinstein

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