Psychic Numbing and the Ongoing Genocide in Darfur

Publications and Presentations

Slovic, P., Västfjäll, D., Erlandsson, A., & Gregory, R. (2017). Iconic photographs and the ebb and flow of empathic response to humanitarian disasters. PNAS. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1613977114

Michel-Kerjan, E., & Slovic, P. (2010, October 7). The collapse of compassion. The Huffington Post.

Slovic, P. (2009, October). Can international law stop genocide when our moral intuitions fail us? Paper presented at the Hauser Globalization Colloquium, Fall 2009: International Approaches to International Law, New York.

Slovic, P. (2008, December). Thinking and deciding rationally about catastrophic losses of human lives. Paper presented at “The Irrational Economist,” a conference and book writing in honor of Howard Kunreuther, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Slovic, P. (2007, November) Psychic numbing and genocide. APA Psychological Science Agenda, 21. Retrieved from

Slovic, P. (2007, October 9). Another century of genocide? continues Dr. Slovic’s series of posts at The Situationist, The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School.

Slovic, P. (2007, April 20). If I look at the mass I will never act: Psychic numbing and genocide. Presented at The 2007 Princeton Colloquium on Public and International Affairs, Princeton, NJ.

Slovic, P. (2007, April 11). Too many to care. Message posted to The Situationist, The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School.

Slovic, P. (2007, April 7). Genocide: When compassion fails. Retrieved from

Slovic, P. (2007, March). Numbed by numbers. Foreign Policy. Retrieved April 4, 2007 from

Wright, Jeff. (2005, November 28). Researcher says carnage too easy to ignoreThe Register Guard, pp. B1, B5.

Slovic, P. (2005, September 12). Katrina moved us to act, so why not Darfur? The Register Guard, p. A11.

Media Coverage

  • Emma Janke interviewed Paul Slovic on Sweden’s Vetandets Värld February 10, 2009 (mostly in Swedish).  Listen here.
  • Paul Slovic was interviewed on January 8, 2009 by Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC’s The Current. Listen to the interview here, in Part 1: Mass Suffering
  • Paul Slovic was interviewed in Sweden in October, 2008, where he participated in the Interdisciplinary Research Conference on the Bystander. Listen to the interview.
  • Dr. Steve Shankman interviews Paul Slovic, on the University of Oregon Humanities Center’s UO Today television program October 8, 2008. Dr. Slovic discusses his recent research into the psychological factors contributing to public apathy toward genocide.  (Length: 28 min)

      • Six-minute documentary overview of Dr. Slovic’s research on psychic numbing and genocide. Produced in the Spring of 2008 by Desiree Aflleje, Emese Foss, and Jon Palfreman.

  • The National Science Foundation’s May 15, 2008 press release “Why Nations Fail to Act” includes coverage of Paul Slovic’s work and a video interview in which he discusses psychic numbing, or “why people, who emotionally care for and respond to one person in need, tend to become emotionally numb to many people in need.”
  • Paul Slovic was interviewed for an article entitled “Why We Don’t Care About Darfur” that appeared in the September, 2007 issue of O Magazine on page 236.
  • Paul’s September 9, 2007 interview with World Vision Report is available here.
  • Paul Slovic participated in a panel entitled “The Ethics of Witnessing in the Public Domain,” with Jerry Fowler, Nicholas Kristof, and Barbie Zelizer, as part of the University of Oregon’s Symposium Witnessing Genocide: Representation and Responsibility, April 30, 2007.