The Stream

Why human compassion decreases the more people are killed?

As the war on Gaza continues, we look at the science of empathy and question why it puts a limit on human compassion.

Throughout Israel’s war on Gaza, there have been calls to remember the names of those who lost their lives and to remember that they are not just numbers.

However, as the death toll continues to rise, those killed become figures in the minds of those outside of the war.

It is a response known as psychic numbing. Why is it that during mass atrocities or suffering, it can seem difficult at times to feel true empathy?

Anelise Borges


Plestia Alaqad – Citizen journalist

Juliette Lennox – Science and health educator

Tanya Haj-Hassan – Pediatric intensive care doctor

Nasreen Abd Elal – Visualising Palestine, information designer