Feeling their pain: affective empathy and public preferences for foreign development aid
Bringing together psychological approaches to empathy with research on public preferences for foreign development aid, we shed light on the role empathy plays in global helping behavior. We argue individuals combine their affective empathic responses with situational factors when forming foreign aid preferences. Testing our theory with two novel experiments embedded in a national survey of US citizens, we find that affective empathy not only predicts the individual variation in foreign aid preferences but also explains why Americans weigh aid effectiveness and recipient deservingness—the two important situational aspects of foreign aid—differently. We show that the ability to feel others’ pain is what facilitates global helping behavior, not simply knowing their pain. However, even though this affective ability moderates the impact of aid effectiveness, it amplifies that of recipient merit. Our results contribute to a richer understanding of when empathy facilitates public support for foreign development aid and add to the burgeoning research program on behavioral international politics.
figshare SAGE Publications
Holmes, Marcus; Bayram, A. Burcu (2019), "Feeling their pain: affective empathy and public preferences for foreign development aid", figshare SAGE Publications, doi: 10.25384/sage.c.4801887.v1