Helping behaviors during disaster reporting stages : a measure of innate and conditioned differences in empathy and compassion generation

by Jena J Thompson

Institution: Colorado State University
Year: 2016
Keywords: compassion; disasters; empathy; helping; newswriting; reporting
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2069376
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10217/170426


The frequency of significant disasters has increased, worldwide; yet, donations have not steadily increased to provide sufficient disaster relief for those affected by the events. This study investigates how two disaster news reporting stages (Stage 1 and 2) with different newswriting formats (hard and soft news stories) can affect millennials' generation of empathy, compassion, and helping behaviors. Innate tendencies (in the form of emotional contagion and gender differences) and conditioned responses (through internalization of the principle of care) were also considered as moderating variables for helping behaviors. The study incorporated an experimental design with random assignment to a Stage 1, hard news story or Stage 2, soft news story condition. While no significant relationships were found among generated empathy, compassion, or helping behavior intent in either news story condition; significant results were found for emotional contagion and gender differences' moderating role in helping behavior intent, as well as the principle of care's effect on donation decisions. Best practices for improving disaster relief communication campaigns include 1) heightened fundraising campaigns during Stage 1 and 2 reporting, 2) strategic content organization to increase helping behavior likelihood, 3) utilizing media platforms catered more toward females, 4) more emphasis on volunteering opportunities for millennials rather than financial investments, 5) greater diversity in terms of who millennials can partner with to aid in disaster relief, and 6) continued improvement of communication campaigns directed toward millennials and commitment to include this generation in disaster recovery efforts. Advisors/Committee Members: Anderson, Ashley (advisor), Trumbo, Craig (committee member), Henry, Kimberly (committee member).