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date: 24 June 2021

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.

Keywords: compassion, altruism, empathy, motivation, emotion regulation, prosocial

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