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Attentional Mechanisms in the Generation of Sympathy. Stephan Dickert Paul Slovic Max-Planck Institute for Decision Research Collective Goods University of Oregon. Affect and Deliberation in Donations and Charitable Behavior.

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Attentional Mechanisms in the Generation of Sympathy

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Attentional mechanisms in the generation of sympathy l.jpg

Attentional Mechanisms in the Generation of Sympathy

Stephan Dickert Paul Slovic

Max-Planck Institute for Decision Research

Collective Goods

University of Oregon


Affect and deliberation in donations and charitable behavior l.jpg

Affect and Deliberation in Donations and Charitable Behavior

  • Emotional reactions are a key ingredient in the decision to help others / donate money

    • Slovic (2007)

  • Empathy

    • e.g., Batson (1990)

  • Sympathy, Compassion, Distress

    • Loewenstein & Small, 2007; Kogut & Ritov, 2005a, 2005b

  • Anticipated Regret

    • e.g., Dickert (2008)


  • Affect and deliberation in donations and charitable behavior3 l.jpg

    Affect and Deliberation in Donations and Charitable Behavior

    • Deliberation can interfere with emotional reactions to victims

      • Calculation prime reduced contributions for identified victims and predictive strength of emotions on contributions

        • Small, Loewenstein, & Slovic, 2007

      • Availability of deliberative resources reduced contributions and predictive strength of sympathy on donations

        • Dickert (2008)


    Antecedants of feelings in pro social behavior l.jpg

    Antecedants of Feelings in Pro-social Behavior

    Slovic (2007)


    Imagery and affect l.jpg

    Imagery and Affect

    • Imagery:

      • Identified Victim Effect

        • Kogut & Ritov (2005a); Small & Loewenstein (2003)

    • Singularity Effect

      • Kogut & Ritov (2005b)

  • Entitativity

    • Hamilton & Sherman (1996)


  • Antecedants of feelings in pro social behavior6 l.jpg

    Antecedants of Feelings in Pro-social Behavior

    Slovic (2007)


    Affect and attention l.jpg

    Affect and Attention

    • Emotions guide attentional focus

      • Affective stimuli attract attention

        • (e.g., fearful faces, Fox, 2002)

    • Affective stimuli can direct attention even before conscious recognition

      • (e.g., Vuilleumier, 2005)


    Attention and affect l.jpg

    Attention and Affect

    • Attention a possible ingredient in affective reactions to victims

      • Slovic (2007)

  • Distractor devaluation effect

    • Unattended stimuli are affectively devalued

      • Closer proximity to a target  more devaluation

        • Fenske & Raymond (2006)


  • Attentional mechanisms in the generation of sympathy9 l.jpg

    Attentional Mechanisms in the Generation of Sympathy

    • Rationale and Hypotheses:

      • If presented together, other victims may act as distractors

      • Lower sympathy for victims presented with distractors

      • Ability to pay attention to a single victim may increase sympathy


    Attentional mechanisms in the generation of sympathy10 l.jpg

    Attentional Mechanisms in the Generation of Sympathy

    Example:


    Method l.jpg

    Method

    • N = 61

    • 2 (distractors vs. no distractors) x

      2 (cue before vs. cue after) within-subjects

    • 64 trials total (16 in each condition)

    • DV = sympathy, RT


    Cue before no distractors l.jpg

    A lot of sympathy

    No sympathy at all

    Cue-before, no distractors


    Cue before distractors l.jpg

    A lot of sympathy

    No sympathy at all

    Cue-before, distractors


    Cue after no distractors l.jpg

    A lot of sympathy

    No sympathy at all

    Cue-after, no distractors


    Cue after distractors l.jpg

    A lot of sympathy

    No sympathy at all

    Cue-after, distractors


    Time course per trial l.jpg

    Cue-Before:

    Single Picture

    Cue-Before:

    Eight Pictures

    150 ms

    Fixation Cross

    500 ms

    Cue

    Picture(s)

    3000 ms

    Sympathy

    Rating

    ~ ms

    Time course per trial


    Results l.jpg

    Results

    No Distractors

    Distractors

    No Distractors

    Distractors


    Results18 l.jpg

    Results

    .08

    .01

    .05

    No Distractors

    Distractors

    No Distractors

    Distractors

    p =


    Summary l.jpg

    Summary

    • Single target evoked higher sympathy when presented without distractors

    • This effect was stronger when participants were not able to focus on the location where the target victim appeared

    • Sympathy ratings lowest when presenting distractor victims and participants were not able to focus on the location of the target


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    Discussion

    • Attention seems to be one ingredient in the generation of sympathy for victims

    • Inability to focus (on a single victim) lowers sympathy judgments

    • Attentional Evaluation Hypothesis:

      • Attentional focus may increase affect evaluation of target

    • Singularity Effect revisited:

      • Attentional mechanisms contribute to the singularity effect


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    Future Research

    • Attention and other Emotions

      • E.g., anticipated regret?

    • Attention and Donations

      • Does attention increase donations?

    • Visual vs. other forms of attention?


    Thank you l.jpg

    Thank you!

    • Collaborators:

      • Paul Slovic

      • Michael Posner

      • Ellen Peters

      • Namika Sagara

    • Special thanks to:

      • Tehila Kogut & Ilana Ritov


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