Event Title

The Moral Impact of Visual Numbers

Presenter Information

Nathaniel Eames, Colby CollegeFollow

Location

Parker-Reed, SSWAC

Start Date

30-4-2015 9:00 AM

End Date

30-4-2015 10:55 AM

Project Type

Poster

Description

What one ought to do is not always what a normal person does. This has been evident in human behavior throughout history, but until recently there were no precise, scientific reasons to explain why or how people act immorally in very similar ways. Here, I will examine one seemingly logical moral norm put forth by Peter Singer: that we should help all others the same amount regardless of insignificant differences such as location. I will then describe experiments I conducted to explain why people almost always disobey that logical, moral norm. My original belief was that we are more likely to help one person in need than many people in need because we are emotionally overwhelmed and unattached to many needy people as compared to one person. This hypothesis was unproven in initial testing, leading me to add another element to my hypothesis, namely that we are unable to emotionally understand raw numbers alone, but can connect to visualizations of those numbers. After more experimentation, I was able to prove this second version of my hypothesis.

Faculty Sponsor

John Waterman

Sponsoring Department

Colby College. Philosophy Dept.

CLAS Field of Study

Humanities

Event Website

http://www.colby.edu/clas

ID

1706

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Apr 30th, 9:00 AM Apr 30th, 10:55 AM

The Moral Impact of Visual Numbers

Parker-Reed, SSWAC

What one ought to do is not always what a normal person does. This has been evident in human behavior throughout history, but until recently there were no precise, scientific reasons to explain why or how people act immorally in very similar ways. Here, I will examine one seemingly logical moral norm put forth by Peter Singer: that we should help all others the same amount regardless of insignificant differences such as location. I will then describe experiments I conducted to explain why people almost always disobey that logical, moral norm. My original belief was that we are more likely to help one person in need than many people in need because we are emotionally overwhelmed and unattached to many needy people as compared to one person. This hypothesis was unproven in initial testing, leading me to add another element to my hypothesis, namely that we are unable to emotionally understand raw numbers alone, but can connect to visualizations of those numbers. After more experimentation, I was able to prove this second version of my hypothesis.

http://digitalcommons.colby.edu/clas/2015/program/177