One Picture Broke the Heart of the World

Google search terms "Syria," "refugees," and "Aylan" surged in September 2015.

Google search terms "Syria," "refugees," and "Aylan" surged in September 2015.

The Atlantic contributor Amos Zeeberg used a series of graphics created by Paul Slovic in his January 6, 2016 article "How Images Trigger Empathy," which focuses on the identifiable victim effect.

"To perceive tragedy, we have to see a person . . . as an individual," writes Zeeberg, who also notes that charities such as Children International, who share images of individuals with donors, seem well aware of this effect.

Drawing on a 2013 study by Dr. Slovic and his colleagues, Zeeberg offers the hopeful sentiment that science is beginning to aid us in understanding the power of photography to move us to help those in need.

Many refugees, however, do not achieve the sad celebrity of Aylan Kurdi—instead, they remain anonymous, faceless, unknown, and far away. To cross these borders, we must become aware of psychological pitfalls that keep us from acting as if every human life has equal value.