Missing submersible: researcher: understandable empathy with "Titan" inmates

Do we feel more sympathy for five men missing on a submersible in the Atlantic than for hundreds of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean? Many people are currently formulating this thought in social networks about reports about the "Titan".

Missing submersible: researcher: understandable empathy with "Titan" inmates

Do we feel more sympathy for five men missing on a submersible in the Atlantic than for hundreds of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean? Many people are currently formulating this thought in social networks about reports about the "Titan". The submersible was on its way to the wreck of the famous luxury liner "Titanic" when contact with the mother ship was lost. From the point of view of the psychologist and neuroscientist Grit Hein, such trains of thought are quite understandable.

"Compassion and empathy increases with the perceived closeness or resemblance to an affected person," said the researcher from the Würzburg University Hospital of the German Press Agency. You can imagine that for many it actually feels closer to setting off for the "Titanic" in a submarine than leaving your homeland because of war and hunger. For other people who themselves have a background as refugees, it is certainly different.

Twitter user: "People are drowning in the Mediterranean every day"

On Twitter, a user wrote about the incident: "The submarine accident at the wreck of the "Titanic" is bitter. We all still hope that the victims will be rescued alive! But I am speechless: how much this accident affects our public and how we don't care about people drowning in the Mediterranean every day."

For the psychologist Hein, this fact is also due to the reporting. "The moment I have information about a person, it creates this feeling of knowing, of being closer. And that increases compassion." Hein is convinced that this could just as well be generated by corresponding reports on refugees, which, however, usually do not happen that way.

At the same time, the researcher said: "There is certainly the phenomenon that compassion wears off, and of course there is a reason for that in part." If bad news piled up and you responded emotionally to the same extent with every report, this would lead to emotional "burnout". "In comparison, this submarine situation is quite unique, attracts attention at first, and is something that we are initially dealing with more intensively."

Psychologist: Easier to put yourself in the situation

It is easier to put yourself in the situation of being locked in a small space. "Even if it's only in an elevator." In contrast, it is probably difficult for many of us to imagine what it is like to be on the run and to embark on a journey with children and belongings. "This is something that for many of us is much more abstract than being locked up in a small space. That could also explain this initially stronger empathetic reaction towards these five men in the submarine.

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