THE BYSTANDER EFFECT: Bystander – person who is not an active participant in a situation – they are standing by and witnessing
“If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then nothing becomes the norm.” Drew Carberry, A director on the National Counsel of Crime Prevention
The state of being accountable, liable, or answerable, taking responsibility for one’s actions
Diffusion of responsibility:
The lessening of a sense of individual responsibility for a task when responsibility is shared among members
of a group.
The Bystander Effect:
The term bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few
or no other witnesses.
On Friday, March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was returning home from work. As she approached her apartment entrance, she was attacked and stabbed by a man later identified as Winston Moseley.
Despite Genovese’s repeated calls for help, none of the dozen or so people in the nearby apartment building who heard her cries called police to report the incident.
The attack first began at 3:20 AM, but it was not until 3:50 AM that someone first contacted police. Kitty Genovese was raped and stabbed to death.
Kitty was murdered on the street outside her New York City apartment after loud shouting was heard – 38 people witnessed the murder but did nothing to stop it.
Psychologists have long been interested in our unwillingness to get involved in uncomfortable situations even if someone’s personal safety is at risk
The assault continued for half an hour while the 38 bystanders watched without intervening or notifying the police. Four years after Genovese was murdered, psychologists, John Darley and Bibb Latane, wanted to identify the factors that influence bystanders’ decisions to get involved in public situations.
Influences of the Bystander Effect:
People have a tendency see themselves as bystanders in such situations rather than as ACTORS
ACTORS are people who become active participants in a situation
Whether or not we intervene in a situation depends on the cues that we get from the participants and other bystanders
It suggests that if one bystander had joined in to try to help her, others might well have come forward too.
Bystander – person who is not an active participant in a situation– they are standing by and witnessing, additional influences of the Bystander Effect:
Diffusion of responsibility
Social cues/Social norms
Diffusion of Responsibility : the more people in the group, the less likely individuals are to act b/c they think that the responsibility rests with all other bystanders as opposed to when they are the only ones witnessing the situation
People will act differently in various situations…
Factors that Cause People to Act
Morals – parents taught you the right thing to do – i.e. damaging someone’s property
Damage done in their community
Fear – don’t want to get in trouble for not helping
Personal – if you were in that situation, you would want help
Stereotypes – racial profiling, gender, age
Pressure from others – conformity
Factors that Cause People NOT to Act:
Fear – personal safety, mistake (hurting someone…, judgment)
“Not my business” – i.e. conflict in a family
Lack information on the situation
Don’t know people involved
Assume someone else will do it – diffusion of responsibility
Inconvenient – busy, don’t want to get involved, don’t have time…
When Bystanders Join In:
Whether or not we intervene in a situation depends on the
cues that we get from the participants and other bystanders
The Bystander Effect and the Relation to the Holocaust?
The Holocaust is a great example of the bystander effect because the towns and cities near the concentration camps knew fully well of the atrocities and horror inside the camps. These citizens could smell the camps from as far as twenty miles away before finding them. Therefore, the mayhem could not be ignored. The populations made no effort to
stop the torture, yet they were forced to clean up the corpses and bury them in mass graves. Germans were also victims of cultural ethical relativism, believing that if their government thought that genocide was ethically relative behavior in their culture, then they should comply.
In other cases, with more people, individuals are less likely to take responsibility. They assume that someone else will intervene.
Reducing Bystander Effect:
Bystanders know one another.
Witnesses have special bond to the victim.
Bystanders think that the victim is especially dependent on them.
Bystanders have considerable training in emergency intervention.
Witnesses have knowledge of the bystander effect.
What Would You Do?
Aronson, E., (2012) The Social Animal(11th ed). New York: Worth Publishers
Myers, D., (2015) Exploring Social Psychology(7th ed). McGraw Hill.