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Familiarity Breeds Compassion: Knowledge of Disaster Areas and Willingness to Donate Money to Disaster Victims


  • Thanks go to Sherry Zhu for her help with the data collection. This work was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council grant awarded to the first and third authors, RES-000-22-1817.

Hanna Zagefka, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK. Email


We tested whether knowing more about an area where a humanitarian disaster happened would increase willingness to donate to its victims. Knowledge was proposed to have a positive impact on donation proclivity, mediated by greater identification with the victims: The more potential donors know about the victims and their environment, the more are they able to identify with the victims. Identification, in turn, was proposed to positively impact on willingness to donate. Results confirmed these predictions in one correlational study (N= 111), one experimental study (N= 200), and one quasi-experimental study (N= 100), focusing on the Asian Tsunami of 2004 and the Chinese earthquake of 2008. Theoretical and applied implications of the research findings are discussed.