Bystander Effect

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Sam Kotowski
10-29-2010
Psychology
Bystander Effect Essay
In New York City around 1964, a 29-year-old woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death. Despite hearing cries nobody reported this incident to the police; only because they assumed that someone else would or has already done it. Although murders in New York are not uncommon, the circumstances surrounding Kitty’s death have saved her story to be a strangely literal illustration of what is now a well-known psychological effect: the Bystander Effect. The Bystander Effect states that the more people present during an emergency, the less likely any individual is to assist. Bystanders are most likely to only assist if there are little or no witnesses present around them. Also if an event is ambiguous (doubtful or unclear) then people are also less likely to react to that situation. In a series of classic study, researchers Bibb Latane and John Darley found that the amount of time it takes the participant to take action and seek help varies depending on how many other observers are in the room. In one experiment, subjects were placed in one of three treatment conditions: alone in a room, with two other participants or with two confederates who pretended to be normal participants. As the participants sat filling out questionnaires, smoke began to fill the room. When participants were alone, 75% reported the smoke to the experimenters. In contrast, just 38% of participants in a room with two other people reported the smoke. In the final group, the two confederates in the experiment noted the smoke and then ignored it, which resulted in only 10% of the participants reporting the smoke (http://psychology.about.com/od/socialpsychology/a/bystandereffect.htm, Para 2). Bystander effect has influenced everyone in some way or another in life. Whether it be from watching a car sit with its hazard lights on waiting on the side of the road and not asking for help or seeing someone struggling with something and not...
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