The “identified victim” effect: an identified group, or just a single individual?

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Abstract

People's greater willingness to help identified victims, relative to non-identified ones, was examined by varying the singularity of the victim (single vs. a group of eight individuals), and the availability of individually identifying information (the main difference being the inclusion of a picture in the “identified” versions). Results support the proposal that the “identified victim” effect is largely restricted to situations with a single victim: the identified single victim elicited considerably more contributions than the non-identified single victim, while the identification of the individual group members had essentially no effect on willingness to contribute. Participants also report experiencing distress when the victim is single and identified more than in any other condition. Hence, the emotional reaction to the victims appears to be a major source of the effect. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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