30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
The bystander effect
In the Kew Gardens district of New York in March 1964, bar manager Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death. Her demise was reportedly witnessed by thirty-eight apartment residents, none of whom did a thing to help. The tragedy caused a moral outcry in the local press and it inspired the psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané to research a phenomenon that’s come to be known as the ’bystander effect’. In their seminal 1968 paper, Darley and Latané tricked research participants into thinking that another participant in the room was having some kind of seizure. The key finding was that participants who thought they were on their own in the room with the ’victim’ were far more likely to seek help, and to do so more quickly, than were participants seated in the room with three or four others. One explanation for the phenomenon is that the presence of other people reduces our own sense of responsibility for a situation.
The more people present at a given situation, the less likely we are to intervene when someone is in need of help.
When historian Joseph de May analyzed proceedings from the trial of Winston Moseley — Kitty Genovese’s murderer — he found the story that thirty-eight witnesses did nothing was little more than a myth based on inaccurate newspaper reports of the time. In fact, Moseley’s second fatal attack on Genovese took place in a stairwell out of view of all but one known witness. However, countless psychology studies have confirmed that the bystander effect is real.
MILGRAM’S OBEDIENCE STUDY
FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR
Don’t walk on by. If we all assume that someone else will do something to help, then a tragedy could occur.