Genevsky, A., Vastfjall, D., Slovic, P., & Knutson, B. (2013). Neural underpinnings of the identifiable victim effect: Affect shifts preferences for giving. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(43), 17188-17196. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2348-13.2013
This study measured compassion and giving at the level of brain function. The investigators found that emotional reaction toward the recipient impacted the neural and behavioral correlates of giving. In particular, the more people could relate to someone in need (by identifying their physical features) and the more positively participants felt toward someone in need, the more likely they were to want to give to them.