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The psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect

Research has shown that, even in an emergency, a bystander is less likely to extend help when he or she is in the real or imagined presence of others than when he or she is alone. Moreover, the number of others is important, such that more bystanders leads to less assistance, although the impact of each additional bystander has a diminishing impact on helping.

Bystander intervention

Bystander intervention The bystander effect became a subject of significant interest following the brutal murder of American woman Kitty Genovese in 1964. Genovese, returning home late from work, was viciously attacked and sexually assaulted by a man with a the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect while walking home to her apartment complex from a nearby parking lot.

As reported in the The New York Times two weeks later, for over half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding people heard or saw the man attack her three separate times. The voices and lights from the bystanders in nearby apartments interrupted the killer and frightened him off twice, but each time he returned and stabbed her again.

Bystander Effect Definition

None of the 38 witnesses called the police during the attack, and only one bystander contacted authorities after Kitty Genovese died. The psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect 2016, following the death of the the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect, Winston Moseley, The New York Times published an article stating that the number of witnesses and what they saw or heard had been exaggerated, that there had been just two attacks, that two bystanders had called the police, and that another bystander tried to comfort the dying woman.

It was an example of how people sometimes fail to react to the needs of others and, more broadly, how behavioral tendencies to act prosocially are greatly influenced by the situation.

Moreover, the tragedy led to new research on prosocial behaviour, namely bystander intervention, in which people do and do not extend help. Whether bystanders extend help depends on a series of decisions.

Bystander decision-making The circumstances surrounding an emergency in which an individual needs help tend to be unique, unusual, and multifaceted.

Bystander effect

Many people have never encountered such a situation and have little experience to guide them during the pressure-filled moments when they must decide whether or not to help. Several decision models of bystander intervention have been developed. A bystander must notice that something is amiss, define the situation as an emergency or a circumstance requiring assistance, decide whether he or she is personally responsible to act, choose how to help, and finally implement the chosen helping behaviour.

Failing to notice, define, decide, choose, and implement leads a bystander not to engage in helping behaviour. In another decision model, bystanders are presumed to weigh the costs and rewards of helping. Bystanders rationalize their decision on the basis of which choice helping the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect not helping will deliver the best possible outcome for themselves. In this model, bystanders are more likely to help when they view helping as a way to advance their personal growth, to feel good about themselves, or to avoid guilt that may result from not helping.

Social influence plays a significant role in determining how quickly individuals notice that something is wrong and define the situation as an emergency. Research has shown that the presence of others can cause diffusion of the responsibility to help. Hence, social influence and diffusion of responsibility are fundamental processes underlying the bystander effect during the early steps of the decision-making process.

In general, positive moods, such as happiness and contentment, encourage bystanders to notice emergencies and provide assistance, whereas negative moods, such as depressioninhibit helping. However, some negative moods, such as sadness and guilt, have been found to promote helping. For example, studies have demonstrated that victims who yell or scream receive help almost without fail. In contrast, other the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect, such as a person suffering a heart attackoften are not highly visible and so attract little attention from the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect.

In situations where the need for help is unclear, bystanders often look to others for clues as to how they should behave.

Absorbing the Bystander Effect: A Social Psychological Phenomenon

Consistent with social comparison theory, the effect of others is more pronounced when the situation is more ambiguous. For example, when other people act calmly in the presence of a potential emergency because they are unsure of what the event means, bystanders may not interpret the situation as an emergency and thus act as if nothing is wrong.

Their behaviour can cause yet other the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect to conclude that no action is needed, a phenomenon known as pluralistic ignorance. But when others seem shocked or distressed, bystanders are more likely to realize an emergency has occurred and conclude that assistance is needed.

Other social comparison variables, such as the similarity of other bystanders e. In sum, when the need for help is unclear, bystanders look to others for guidance. This is not the case when the need for assistance is obvious. Diffusion of responsibility When a person notices a situation and defines it as requiring assistance, he or she must then decide if the responsibility to help falls on his or her shoulders.

Thus, in the third step of the bystander decision-making process, diffusion of responsibility rather than social influence is the process underlying the bystander effect. Diffusion of responsibility refers to the fact that as the number of bystanders increases, the personal responsibility that an individual bystander feels decreases.

As a consequence, so does his or her tendency to help. Thus, a bystander the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect is the only witness to an emergency will tend to conclude that he or she must bear the responsibility to help, and in such cases people typically do help. But bystanders diffuse responsibility to help when others are present. Diffusion of the responsibility is reduced, however, when a bystander believes that others are not in a position to help.

For example, in one study, participants who believed that the only other witness to an emergency was in another building and could not intervene were much more likely to help a victim than were participants who believed that another witness was equally close to the victim.

The Bystander Effect

Diffusion of the responsibility to help is increased when others who are viewed as more capable of helping e. But when the costs of helping and not helping are both high, bystanders feel a strong conflict between the desire to act and the fear of helping. Bystanders often resolve this conflict by concluding that someone else will the psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect i. For example, in a library patrons are expected to be quiet and in a classroom students may speak up in a respectful and orderly way, but at a party people may be much less inhibited.

When bystanders in an emergency situation assess their personal responsibility to act, social expectations for behaviour may influence their decision.