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Press Release 08-080

Why Nations Fail to Act

Loss of feeling after first victim can allow atrocities to occur

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Photo of African refugees.

Logical argument and vivid news media images can motivate people to act to relieve suffering. Images seem to be the key to conveying feeling and meaning, though some imagery is more powerful than others.

Credit: 2008 Jupiter Images Corporation


Paul Slovic discuses how people can emotionally respond to one person in need, but also can become emotionally numb to many people in need. He calls the phenomena "Psychic Numbing" and wants the international community to carefully weigh and publicly justify either their action or inaction in cases of genocide and intentional mass murder as a method of overcoming it.

Credit: Video: National Science Foundation; photo: Kate Mereand