Public Lecture - The More Who Die, the Less We Care: Confronting Apathy Toward Mass Atrocities
Most people are caring and will exert great effort to rescue individual victims whose needy plight comes to their attention. These same good people, however, often become numbly indifferent to the plight of individuals who are “one of many” in a much greater problem. Why does this occur? The answer to this question will help us answer a related question that is the topic of this presentation: Why, over the past century, have good people and their governments repeatedly ignored mass murder and genocide? Prof Slovic will draw from psychological research to show how the statistics of mass murder or genocide, no matter how large the numbers, fail to convey the true meaning of such atrocities.
The reported numbers of deaths represent dry statistics, “human beings with the tears dried off,” that fail to spark emotion or feeling and thus fail to motivate action. Recognizing that we cannot rely only upon our moral feelings to motivate proper action against genocide, we must look to moral argument and international law. The 1948 Genocide Convention was supposed to meet this need, but it has not been effective. It is time to examine this failure in light of the psychological deﬁciencies described here and design legal mechanisms and political institutions that will enforce proper response to genocide and other forms of mass abuses of innocent human beings.
Paul Slovic is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon. He is a leading theorist and researcher on risk perception. Paul is founder and president of Decision Research, a non-profit research organisation in the US that investigates human judgment, decision-making and risk.
For more information about Prof Paul Slovic and his research check out the following links:
Video: 'A Walk Through Risk'
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