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human nature

mass suffering

The reason human beings seem to care so little about mass suffering and death is precisely because the suffering is happening on a mass scale. The brain is simply not very good at grasping the implications of mass suffering. Americans would be far more likely to step forward if only a few people were suffering or a single person were in pain. Hokget did not draw our sympathies because we care more about dogs than people; she drew our sympathies because she was a single dog lost on the biggest ocean in the world. Our hidden brain — my term for a host of unconscious mental processes that subtly bias our judgment — shapes our compassion into a telescope. We are best able to respond when we are focused on a single victim. -the Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedantam

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