The Power of One: The Psychology of Charity

The Huffington Post:

Mother Teresa famously said: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” There are worse people to turn to for lessons in human charity, and here Calcutta’s celebrated missionary also showed an astute grasp of cognitive psychology — and its paradoxes. Our compassion and generosity should grow as the number of poor and suffering multiplies, but the opposite seems to occur. Some numbers are just too big and abstract to grasp, so they lose their power.

The results were clear, and much like the earlier findings. As described in a forthcoming article in the journal Psychological Science, those who were first prompted to focus on a single earthquake victim gave much more in the end than did the controls. The cognitive potency of the number 1 significantly shaped real-life acts of charity.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APS, We’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology.

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