Kevin Rudd has gone off to Pakistan as a way of expressing Australia’s support for that country struck by floods but Australia as a whole seems to care little about the many millions who are now suffering. It is hard to know why but there is not the normal sympathy I would have expected.
Perhaps Joseph Stalin had the answer when he once claimed that a single death was a tragedy, but a million deaths was a statistic. New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University validates this sentiment, confirming large-scale tragedies don’t connect with people emotionally in the same way smaller tragedies do.
The researchers found that a “scope-severity paradox” exists in which judgment of harm tends to be based on emotional reactions, and thus people have a stronger emotional response to singular identifiable victims rather than to an entire crowd of sufferers.