(Picture cited from http://www.fenggang.gov.cn/xingwen/xwkb/2012-11-04/31492.html)
The above image depicts a seven-year-old girl who lived in county of Jinzhai, an extremely poor area in China. She had to walk at least two hours to go to school everyday and study in a humble house/ Her family still could hardly afford for her education. This picture was taken by a Chinese journalist Hailong Xie who went to severe poor areas in China to take photos for the Hope Project, a program that raises money to help children continue their studies. The desire for study from this girl’s eyes was spotted by him and this picture was reprinted many times by various news and media organisations and soon was used as the logo for the Hope Project. This logo does not explicitly ask people for donations but leave a message as ‘Help please, the children want to go to school.’
The use of empathy is employed here as a persuasive technique. Empathy consists of two components: an awareness of another person’s internal states and the responses of concern and distress for another person. As a result, it will increase the likelihood of agreeing to requests to help that person (Batson, Duncan, Ackerman, Buckley, & Birch, 1981).
This technique was studied by Archer, Foushee, Davis, and Aderman (1979). 193 undergraduates were ask to pretend to be jurors in a courtroom trail.The experiment required participants to either imagine they were the defendants (empathy-inducing appeal) or to pay close attention to the evidence (non-empathy inducing appeal). The results (shown in Table 1.) suggest that when there was no fact-focused charge, the participants in the empathy-inducing appeal attributed less of the cause for the incident to his personality than those in the non-empathy inducing appeal.
Therefore, it might explain the reason why especially the charity organisations would apply this technique as one way to alter people’s attitude as empathy leads people to feel sorry for the person and result in more helping behaviours and more specifically, money donations.
Archer,R, L., Foushee, H,C., Davis, M.H., & Aderman, D.(1979). Emotional empathy in a courtroom simulation: A person-situation interaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 9, 275-291.
Batson, C. D., Duncan, B, D., Ackerman, D., Buckley, T., & Birch, K. (1981). Is empathic emotion a source of altruistic motivation? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 290-302