Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2013

Document Type



Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Dr. Leaf Van Boven


Despite extensive global efforts, the number of individuals across the globe whose survival relies on the ability of international humanitarian aid organizations to provide lifesaving goods and services remains overwhelming, and donations abroad are lackluster. This study seeks to examine the role of distance in pro-social judgments and decisions. We hypothesize that increases in both objective and psychological distance will be associated with decreases in participants’ perceptions of others’ moral obligation to natural disaster victims. Additionally, we hypothesize that at greater distances these relationships will be weaker than when at smaller distances. Support was found for these hypotheses, suggesting psychological distance may have a numbing effect on pro-social judgments and decisions. Future research should continue to examine the extent of and capacity for psychological distance to numb individuals’ willingness to help those abroad, specifically across various cultures and through manipulation tasks. We hope that one day, the application of this and future findings will influence the manner in which charitable organizations solicit support for their efforts abroad.