compassion fade
n. The decrease in compassion felt for the unfortunate as their numbers increase.
Similarly, technology connects us to more and more of the world’s suffering, of which there’s an essentially infinite amount, until feeling steamrollered by it becomes structurally inevitable — not a sign that life’s getting worse. And the consequences go beyond glumness. They include "compassion fade", the well-studied effect whereby our urge to help the unfortunate declines as their numbers increase.
—Oliver Burkeman, “Is less news good news?,” The Guardian (London), January 15, 2016
In studies published last year in the journal PLOS One, one of us, Paul Slovic, and colleagues demonstrated that "compassion fade" can occur when an incident involving a single person expands to as few as two people.
—Scott Slovic & Paul Slovic, “The Arithmetic of Compassion,” The New York Times, December 04, 2015
Moreover, the emergence of compassion fade…, which in this case means urban residents’ compassion shown to Tibetans decreases as the number of migrants in need of aid increases…, poses a significant challenge to personal and collective capacity to respond effectively to the many environmental problems.
2012 (earliest)
In the third paper (Chapter IV: ‘Are pandas like people?’), I explore these limits within the context of environmental stewardship. Specifically, I extend past work on what I refer to as compassion fade — which refers to the finding that compassion towards victims tends to decrease as the number of individuals in need of aid increases.
—Ezra Markowitz, “Affective and Moral Roots of Environmental Stewardship: The Role of Obligation, Gratitude and Compassion” (PDF), University of Oregon, September 01, 2012
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