One of the masses

Yes, this is a post about adoption. It’ll just take a while to get there.

I’ve been reading this book called Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. It’s basically a marketing book. You might be wondering why I’m reading a marketing book. Partly because Mr. HM is in this general field, and partly because I ramble on and on to him about how much the adoption profession/industry is about marketing.

Made to Stick outlines some of the basic requirements for a "sticky" idea – wittily formed into the acronym SUCCESS. I get to chapter 5, "Emotional" and the authors begin by introducing the Mother Teresa Effect. The  Mother Teresa Effect is a concept based on the late nun’s quote, "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will."

In 2004, Carnegie Mellon University** conducted an experiment to see if this quote held true in real life. They gave participants five $1 bills to participate in a fictional survey, then presented half of the participants with a fact sheet about starving children in Africa along with an envelope for a donation. The other half of the participants received the same envelope, but instead of a fact sheet, they were given a photo of a young girl named Rokia and a paragraph about how her life would benefit from the participant’s donation.

As you might expect, those with the picture of Rokia gave more than twice as much as those with just the fact sheet.

The researchers tried the experiment again, this time giving one group the fact sheet and the story about Rokia and the other group just the story about Rokia. Again, those with just the story of Rokia donated more than the group with both the story and the facts.

According to the authors of Made to Stick, "once we put on our analytical hat, we react to emotional appeals differently. We hinder our ability to feel" (p. 167).

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