Refugee crisis: Why one boy’s tragedy created a wave of empathy

12 09 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 3.08.37 PMGood article in New Scientist on what helped tip many Europeans’ reactions to muslim refugees from hostility to compassion: the pathetic sight of one tiny drowned 3-year-old. The scale of the suffering in Syria, and in packed boats of misery crossing the Med, is so overwhelming to take in…. most of us can’t process it, and we might even find ourselves avoiding these awful stories. We often just need a name and a single story to make it resonate (for me, it was the teenager who pushed his grandmother in a wheelchair from Afghanistan).

Interestingly we’re not all the same though: a few years ago researchers apparently found that people with larger amygdalae are more prone to being right-wing (the less compassionate, often more anti-immigrant, “I worked hard to be self-sufficient and so can you” form of politics … ), and so perhaps prone to greater fears of threat and change? (Though I really should read the original work before taking it as a gospel).