What Makes Some People Help and Others Stand by?

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What makes some people help and others stand by?

A lot of social psychological research focuses on anti-social behaviour. This essay will look at the other side of the coin and focus on pro-social behaviour, specifically helping behaviour and altruism. It will look at what causes people to help or not help and the phenomenon of altruism, the act of helping other for no discernable reward.

The two psychologists who have researched this area most are Bibb Latané and John Darley. They came together whilst discussing the case of Kitty Genovese, which is outlined below:

"At approximately 3:20 on the morning of March 13, 1964, twenty-eight-year-old Ms Catherine (Kitty) Genovese was returning to her home from her job as a bar manager. She parked her red Fiat in a nearby parking lot, turned-off the lights and started the walk to her second floor apartment 35 yards away. She got as far as a streetlight when a man grabbed her. She screamed. Lights went on in the 10-floor apartment building nearby. She yelled, "Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me!" Windows opened in the apartment building and a man's voice shouted, "Let that girl alone." The attacker looked up, shrugged and walked-off down the street. Ms Genovese struggled to get to her feet. Lights went back off in the apartments. The attacker came back and stabbed her again. She again cried out, "I'm dying! I'm dying!" And again the lights came on and windows opened in many of the nearby apartments. The assailant again left and got into his car and drove away. Ms Genovese staggered to her feet as a city bus drove by. It was now 3:35 a.m. The attacker returned once again. He found her in a doorway at the foot of the stairs and he stabbed her a third time, this time with a fatal consequence. It was 3:50 when the police received the first call. They responded quickly and within two minutes were at the scene. Ms Genovese was already dead. " (From Crimelibrary.com)

After a police investigation it was learned that 38 people heard or directly witnessed this attack over the half hour period. Only one of them called the police and then only after a call to a friend asking for advice. If the police had been called straight away Kitty would not have been murdered. The question of why no body helped inspired the future work by Latané and Darley and this in term prompted others to look into helping behaviour and what motivates those who help and how those who do nothing justify their lack of action.

Latané and Darley (1970) conducted helping behaviour experiments over a period and used the findings to produce their "helping model" (Latané and Darley, 1970). This model consisted of five stages. The first stage is noticing the emergency, is the individual too preoccupied to actual see there is a situation with which they could help. This was shown in a study performed by Darley and Batson (1973) with a group of seminary students as the unknowing participants. Half the students were told they had to give a talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 – 37). The other half were told they had to give a talk about jobs most enjoyed by seminary students. The subjects were then told they were (a) ahead of schedule and had plenty of time to get to the talk (b) right on time, or (c) late for the talk. On the way to the talk all the subjects, individually, passed a confederate slumped in a door way coughing and groaning. The results show that although the topic of the talk the students were given had no effect on incidents of helping, of those students who had time to spare 63% stopped to offer assistance, of those who were on time 45% stopped to help and of those who were late only 10% stopped. This would seem to support the ides that preoccupation leads to a reduction in noticing incidents where help is required.

Once a situation has been noticed stage two of Latané and Darley's model comes into play. This involves interpreting the situation as an emergency. As Wilson...
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