Exploring the relationship between adult attachment style and the identifiable victim effect in helping behavior Academic Article uri icon


  • People’s preference to help victims about whom they have some information is known as the identifiable victim effect. Results of three studies, in which dispositional attachment styles were measured (study 1) and activated in a between-subjects priming manipulation (studies 2 and 3), suggest that the intensity of this phenomenon is related to the potential helper’s adult attachment style. Specifically, we found that secure people provide similar levels of help to identified and unidentified victims. Attachment avoidance is associated with lower donations to both types of victims. Finally, the biggest gap between donations to identified and unidentified victims was found for anxious people, who tend to donate relatively higher amounts to identified victims and lower amounts to unidentified ones. Moreover, people under attachment-anxiety priming tend to perceive less similarity and connectedness between themselves and unidentified victims as opposed to identified victims, a tendency that may underlie the identifiability effect.

publication date

  • January 1, 2013