The Identifiable Victim Effect [Donation = subjective/objective?]

To start this post, let me give you 2 example on the choices of donation =

  1. Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children. In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% drop in the maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated 3 million Zambians face hunger. 4 million Angolans-one third of the population have been forced to flee their homes. More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.
  2. Her life would be changed for the better as a result of financial gift. With your support and the support other caring sponsors, Save the children will work with Rokia’s family and other members of the community to help feed her, provide her with an education, as well as basic medical care and hygiene education.

If you behave like most of the research’s participants. The donation for the option 1, which affects more than 3 million people will be half (½) as the donation to Rokia. So Rokia’s donation will be twice as much the donation for people of Malawi, Zambia, Angolans, and Ethiopia.

This is the psychological phenomenon called the identifiable victim effect. The identifiable victim effect is a tendency for humans to give more or to give better assistance when the subject is identifiable and giving less when the subject is vague/unclear.

This phenomenon really shows us how subjective our perspective is. We are more likely to give 2x the money to a person that has detailed information about his/her pain or needs than to give our donation that could improve millions of people lives. So our decision is influenced by the attention and the detail we got from the information rather than thinking objectively.

Nowadays, this phenomenon is used by governments and companies to trigger our emotional affection to the subject, by giving detailed information, detailed pictures, etc. For example governments and companies more likely to give this picture to resemble poverty


Rather than displaying the statistic of the poverty itself, which rationally gives us the big picture of the problem. But with the statistic, the victim is unidentifiable which makes us less likely to donate. With the picture above, we can identify the victim detailedly and explicitly, so we are more likely to feel affection toward her and donate more.

What do you think about this post? What is your opinion? Tell us in the comment box below!


Ariely, Dan. The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home. S.l.: Harper, 2011. Print.

“Identifiable Victim Effect.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Aug. 2017. Web. 21 Aug. 2017.

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