Why does everyone help when disaster strikes? - Compassion and kindness

When bad things happen, people rush to offer aid. No country understands this better than Haiti after the disastrous earthquake of January 2010. Scores of countries, the United States prominent among them came to offer assistance. The same has happened as disaster after disaster has struck different shores and regions across the globe. People clamber to give assistance. But, why?


Of course the answer given is compassion and kindness. Most people are moved into action by a need to help others who suffer, and this impetus is chalked down to caring hearts. But, according to a psychology professor, Art Markman from the University of Texas, the true motivation might actually be more selfish than altruistic.

Faced with their own mortality when their regular routine, upon which they depend for stability, is disrupted, human beings seek to bolster their self-esteem by way of promoting certain beliefs programmed by their culture. This is called the terror management theory. The release of anxiety caused by the unbalancing of our normal lives becomes assuaged once we start giving assistance. Professor Markman describes this as our brain's 'automatic reaction', a sort of base impulse necessary for the healing processes of the witnesses of major catastrophe.

As stringent as this explanation is, veering away from the far more likable explanation that human beings are just intrinsically compassionate and give aid because they are kind, it looks a more valid point when one considers how far-away tragedies, or those that don't get widely publicized seem to have a desensitizing affect on people. Being disconnected from a disaster like a mud slide in a far-off country doesn't have the same affect on the masses as an earthquake in the same hemisphere does.

Reply to this article

Read more: Disaster, Disaster Tips, Compassion, Kindness, Disaster

« Mudslides and rainstorms killed 13 in Haiti and threaten even more | Main | Fire at the Market of Croix-des-Bouquets »

Return to Articles List

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

E-mail (required, will not be published)

Subject: Why does everyone help when disaster strikes? - Compassion and kindness edit

» »

Our objective is to share with you news and information about Haiti and the people of Haiti. Traditions, habits and the way we were  or  grew are alive in this site. We highly recommend that you Subscribe to our Newsletter and also share with us some of the things that are memorable and made us unique people.