IB Extended Essay DRAFT
An Evaluation of Empathy
Its Effects and Its Role in Charitable Donations
Word Count: 4590
Table of Contents
Empathy and Human Motivation
Analysis of Donations
Every individual, whether they may recognize or not, is controlled by their ability to empathize. This paper focuses on one’s ability to empathize and the effect that empathy has on decision making, specifically pertaining to one’s willingness to donate to charity. The theory presented through this analysis on empathy is the human’s inability to empathize with more than one victim at a time. Therefore the human motivation to donate is inversely effected by the number of victims represented by a charity. First the paper will explore empathy, or the capacity to psychologically share the same feelings as another individual. Through this exploration empathy will be further analyzed and discussed in order to present a comprehensive understanding of the human’s psychological use of empathy. Next the paper will examine donations, on both the global and local scale. It will discuss the statics of charities, and their correlation to the thesis. An interview with an organizer of local charities strengthens the argument in favor. The essay will then analyze both the donation facts and statics and the role of empathy on the human psyche, and examine their effect on one another. And in doing so reference multiple studies under which the two were examined together. The conclusion revisits the original thesis and states that monetary donations are greatly affected by empathy in the human psyche.
Empathy is an emotional understanding of one for another. Psychologist Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon refers to empathy as “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” (Vedantam). Unlike the visceral and engaged act of empathy, sympathy is passive. Sympathy is “a feeling or expression of pity or sorrow for the distress of another” (Morris).
If empathy is the idea of a person living another’s experiences and “walking a mile” in their “shoes”, then it is of no surprise that this emotion would play a major role in ones world view. This bond between individuals allows for humans to evolve past personal gain, and creates their world view. With empathy, one is concerned for the well being of another. This concern is what leads people to create foundations to raise money, support, awareness, etc. for various causes. And the human’s ability to empathize directly controls their willingness to those foundations. According to Lindsay Trout, Assistant Principle to the South Lakes High School Class of 2011 and former Leadership teacher, the most effective way to model a charity in order to get the most donations is to “create a feeling of empathy…in as personal a way that we can” (Trout). Thus, in order to gain the most support for one’s cause, he must present the public with a situation that they can empathize with; one they can understand.
Studies done by Slovic, reveal that compassion fatigue, or “the inability of people to respond to suffering when the scale or length of suffering exceeds some astronomical number” (Vedantam), is in fact started, not when the number of victims rises to some incomprehensible number, but instead “compassion fatigue starts when the number of victims rises from one to two” (Vedantam).
Subconscious empathy makes an impact on one’s conscious decisions in the same way as the other elements of the inner human psyche. The role of empathy on a person’s ability to react to the needs of others is reflected in the human motivation to donate to charities. The eagerness of an individual to donate to a charity is greater when the donator is empathetic towards the cause. Even greater reactions are presented when the donator is not only empathetic towards the cause, but...
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