Google Experiment #1: Shared Humanity and Willingness to Help

It’s very cheap to experiment on people these days.

For ~$100 and ~5 hours of my time, I used Google Consumer Surveys (GCS) to collect over 800 responses to the following question:

Famine threatens Ethiopia. Thousands of lives are at risk, but U.S. help could save them. How important is it that the U.S. give $9 million in food aid to these Ethiopians?

This wasn’t just curiosity. This was an experiment. My question had three possible endings:

  1. …food aid to these Ethiopians?
  2. …food aid to these men and women?
  3. …food aid to these human beings?


We all know that Ethiopians are human beings, of course. But do our actions reflect that knowledge?

At least one study found evidence that we’ll donate more money to help rescue someone from our country than someone from another country. (Kogut & Ritov, 2007)

I have a similar question: Are we more willing to help foreigners when they are framed as our fellow humans, rather than as people from some other country?

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