The Identifiable Victim Effect: Using an Experimental-Causal-Chain Design to Test for Mediation

  • Seyoung Lee
  • Thomas Hugh Feeley


The identifiable victim effect (IVE) refers to individuals’ tendency to offer greater aid to identifiable victims than to statistical victims. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether emotional reactions work to mediate IVE. In two experiments based on the experimental-causal-chain design proposed by Spencer et al. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 845–851, 2005), it was shown that an identifiable victim evokes stronger emotional reactions than does a statistical victim (Study 1). It was also demonstrated that the identifiable victim shown or described with a specific expression or information to evoke stronger emotional reactions elicited greater willingness to donate money in participants (Study 2). The results of two studies based on the experimental-causal-chain approach demonstrated that the underlying causal mechanism for the IVE is participants’ emotional reactions to identified victims. The theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed.


Identifiable victim effect Emotion Experimental-causal-chain design 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The Author's declares that they has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity at Buffalo, The State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA

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