A Face Makes All the Difference
Three recent studies have shed light on just how important the relatable human element is in getting people to support a cause.
A study at Princeton University showed participants photos of poor and homeless people in order to gauge participants’ reactions. The results of the study suggested that Americans tend to dehumanize the poor.
A different study by professors in South Korea and Canada found that literally putting a face on a social cause makes people more sympathetic to it, and therefore, more likely to support it. According to the researchers, this is due to a response called “anticipatory guilt,” which is what people feel when they weigh the benefits of supporting something against the potential guilt they’ll feel if they don’t.
An additional study conducted by the Princeton University team found that when participants were shown photos of poor and homeless people and then asked what they thought the people in the photos might like to eat – in other words, when the researchers humanized the people in the photos – the study participants reacted far more empathetically than they had to the original photos. Neuroimaging of the study participants’ brains showed activity in parts of the brain where before there had been none. The researchers called this the “soup-kitchen manipulation.”
What do these data mean for the Social Security Administration (SSA)? Well, for one thing, the human face matters. The SSA must continue to work to ensure that beneficiaries are seen as relatable by the rest of the public. Given the results of the first Princeton study, doing so will not be easy, but considering what the other studies suggested, putting a face on the cause will perhaps make public support for the SSA’s programs easier to come by.