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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

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
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
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)
imagery and affect
Imagery and Affect
  • Imagery:
    • Identified Victim Effect
        • Kogut & Ritov (2005a); Small & Loewenstein (2003)
    • Singularity Effect
        • Kogut & Ritov (2005b)
    • Entitativity
        • Hamilton & Sherman (1996)
affect and attention
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
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
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
method
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
time course per trial

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
Results

No Distractors

Distractors

No Distractors

Distractors

results18
Results

.08

.01

.05

No Distractors

Distractors

No Distractors

Distractors

p =

summary
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
discussion
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
future research
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
Thank you!
  • Collaborators:
    • Paul Slovic
    • Michael Posner
    • Ellen Peters
    • Namika Sagara
  • Special thanks to:
    • Tehila Kogut & Ilana Ritov