Can Anthropographics Promote Prosociality? A Review and Large-Sample Study

Visualizations designed to make readers compassionate with the persons whose data is represented have been called anthropographics and are commonly employed by practitioners. Empirical studies have recently examined whether anthropographics indeed promote empathy, compassion, or the likelihood of prosocial behavior, but findings have been inconclusive so far. This work contributes a detailed overview of past experiments, and two new experiments that use large samples and a combination of design strategies to maximize the possibility of finding an effect. We tested an information-rich anthropographic against a simple bar chart, asking participants to allocate hypothetical money in a crowdsourcing study. We found that the anthropographic had, at best, a small effect on money allocation. Such a small effect may be relevant for large-scale donation campaigns, but the large sample sizes required to observe an effect and the noise involved in measuring it make it very difficult to study in more depth. Data and code are available at
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