An article in the Oct. 1, 2011, Sunday’s New York Times raised an important concern that undoubtedly creeps into the thinking of foundation and nonprofit communicators every so often: Why do people care about some issues and not others? And more so, how do you overcome the likelihood of “psychic numbing” – people turning off their feelings rather than rallying to action because they feel some problems are too big to help solve?
We raised similar questions ourselves two years ago in a webinar that featured a discussion with with Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, and one of the experts featured in the recent Times article.
During our webinar, we asked Dr. Slovic to talk to us about what he was learning from his research about what makes people stop caring or seem less empathetic about causes you’d expect them to want do do something about. We also asked to share his thoughts on why numbers numb, which stories have a greater chance of sticking than others and what you can do with this knowledge, especially if you want to get people to act.
As the New York Times article reminds us, the issue of ”psychic numbing” is just as relevant today. That’s why we’re reposting the webinar here so you can watch the discussion, reflect on what it means to your work and offer your comments.