Filed under: If you only have 15 mins
Paul Slovic writes a fascinating article for the blog ‘The Situationalist” on the phenomenon that people are more likely to act to assist an individual than a group. ““If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” This statement uttered by Mother Teresa captures a powerful and deeply unsettling insight into human nature: Most people are caring and will exert great effort to rescue “the one” whose plight comes to their attention. But these same people often become numbly indifferent to the plight of “the one” who is “one of many” in a much greater problem.” Entitled ‘Too Many to Care’, you can read the rest here.
While you’re at it though, you might want to take a look at some more of Paul’s work – he’s a pretty interesting guy, running something called ‘Decision Research’ out of the psychology department at University of Oregon. The science of how we make decision, and how we can make better ones, has come a long way in the past few years – I’d suggest you start with:
- An mp3 of a really interesting interview he gave with Marco Werman of PRI on peoples’ response to the deaths of thousands.
- An article about the difference in response between Katrina and Darfur.
- A fascinating article on why the difference between no lives lost and one life lost is so much more significant than the difference between 87 lives lost and 88 lives lost.
- If you really can’t get enough, his publications page has a special section on Darfur.
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