- Oxford Library of Psychology
- Oxford Library of Psychology
- About the Editors
- The Landscape of Compassion: Definitions and Scientific Approaches
- Compassion in Context: Tracing the Buddhist Roots of Secular, Compassion-Based Contemplative Programs
- The Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis: What and So What?
- Is Global Compassion Achievable?
- Compassion in Children
- Parental Brain: The Crucible of Compassion
- Adult Attachment and Compassion: Normative and Individual Difference Components
- Compassion-Focused Parenting
- The Compassionate Brain
- Two Factors That Fuel Compassion: The Oxytocin System and the Social Experience of Moral Elevation
- The Impact of Compassion Meditation Training on the Brain and Prosocial Behavior
- Cultural Neuroscience of Compassion and Empathy
- Compassionate Neurobiology and Health
- The Roots of Compassion: An Evolutionary and Neurobiological Perspective
- Vagal Pathways: Portals to Compassion
- Empathy-Building Interventions: A Review of Existing Work and Suggestions for Future Directions
- Studies of Training Compassion: What Have We Learned; What Remains Unknown?
- The Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) Program
- Cognitively Based Compassion Training: Gleaning Generalities from Specific Biological Effects
- Compassion Collapse: Why We Are Numb to Numbers
- The Cultural Shaping of Compassion
- Enhancing Compassion: Social Psychological Perspectives
- Empathy, Compassion, and Social Relationships
- The Class–Compassion Gap: How Socioeconomic Factors Influence Compassion
- Changes Over Time in Compassion-Related Variables in the United States
- To Help or Not to Help: Goal Commitment and the Goodness of Compassion
- Self-Compassion and Psychological Well-being
- Compassion Fatigue Resilience
- Compassion Fears, Blocks and Resistances: An Evolutionary Investigation
- Organizational Compassion: Manifestations Through Organizations
- How Leaders Shape Compassion Processes in Organizations
- The Call for Compassion in Health Care
- A Call for Compassion and Care in Education: Toward a More Comprehensive Prosocial Framework for the Field
- Heroism: Social Transformation Through Compassion in Action
- Social Dominance and Leadership: The Mediational Effect of Compassion
Abstract and Keywords
In the current chapter, I will discuss a phenomenon known as “compassion collapse”: people tend to feel and act less compassionately for multiple suffering victims than for a single suffering victim. This phenomenon contradicts many people’s expectations about how they would and should respond to situations in which the most victims are suffering, as in natural disasters and genocides. Precisely when it seems to be needed the most, compassion is felt the least. In the chapter, I describe studies documenting the effect, and compare two explanations of why compassion collapse occurs: one that focuses on basic capacity limitations on compassion, and another that focuses on motivational factors that lead people to strategically avoid compassion. I close by discussing open questions and future directions for study on this phenomenon.
C. Daryl Cameron is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and research associate in the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University. His research focuses on the psychological processes involved in empathy and moral decision-making. Much of his work examines motivational factors that shape empathic emotions and behaviors toward others, particularly in response to large-scale crises (e.g., natural disasters, genocides) and in inter-group situations.
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