There’s also the possibility that we do it so we can scrutinize the details of what happened as a way to confront our own fears — of pain, death, despair or annihilation — much like when we stand at the edge of a cliff and look down. We can also think about how we would react if we were in that situation, and so consider coping strategies to make us feel more in control. Having an arsenal of coping strategies help us to handle hardships in our own lives, and that’s healthy.
Then there’s a more lofty explanation that we look at someone else’s suffering to empathize and connect with them. Empathy and connecting to others is what makes us social beings. As we examine the situation, we think about the people involved and our first thoughts are of the casualties. If there are none, we feel much better — in other words, we care. If you don’t look and inquire about what happened, you might feel as though you don’t care, and that could make you feel worse about yourself.
Photos of the more horrific train accidents show the aftermath of twisted metal and burnt out cars. But it’s only in the description of the tragic events can we feel empathy for what the passengers experienced.
Please be aware that these images are extremely graphic and may not be appropriate for some viewers.