Responsibility, Intent, and Donor Behavior: Commentary on Who Helps Natural-Disaster Victims? Assessment of Trait and Situational Predictors


  • I wish to thank Danielle Shapiro and Pam Mueller for comments on an earlier draft.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jesse Chandler, Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy, Princeton University, Green Hall, Princeton, NJ 08540. [e-mail:].


Intentional harms are perceived as more painful and more deserving of compensation than unintentional harms. In conjunction with research demonstrating that people are poor judges of intent, this observation may explain why people are more willing to help victims whose suffering appears to be caused by others. This account further explains the authors’ finding that people high in cognitive empathy are especially sensitive to other-caused harm, and aligns well with existing attributional accounts of why perceived victim responsibility reduces helping behavior. Finally, this account suggests a number of novel predictions about the determinants of donor behavior.