Bystander behaviour

Topics: Bystander effect, Kitty Genovese, Diffusion of responsibility Pages: 3 (1139 words) Published: November 24, 2014
Use psychological theory and research to illustrate the phenomenon of bystander behaviour.

The bystander effect can be defined, as when people are in the presence of others, they are less likely to offer to help than when they are alone. Research on bystander intervention has produced a great number of studies showing that the presence of other people in a critical situation reduces the likelihood that an individual will help. There are several real-life situations, which illustrate this effect. One is the case of Kitty Genovese in 1964 who was raped and murdered in Queens, New York, whilst several of her neighbours looked on. Not one of these neighbours intervened during the attack. A more recent case is the case of Dominick Brunner in 2009, who was murdered in a German train station by two 18 year olds after he tried to help children who were attacked by these young criminals. Although several passersby witnessed his murder, no one physically intervened (Fischer et al., 2011). This essay will be using psychological theory and research to illustrate the phenomenon of bystander behaviour by covering the main three theories involved in bystander behaviour, which are pluralistic ignorance, audience inhibition and diffusion of responsibility.

One of the main theories associated with bystander behaviour is pluralistic ignorance. This can be defined as the inhibition of action in vague situations caused by potential helpers observing the inaction of other onlookers. In the aftermath of the Kitty Genovese murder, social psychologists suggested that the presence of so many witnesses inhibited helping due to diffusion of responsibility and pluralistic ignorance (Sagarin & Lawler-Sagarin, 2005). The term pluralistic ignorance was coined by Floyd Allport (1924) to describe the situation in which virtually all members of a group privately reject group norms yet believe that virtually all other group members accept them. Allport introduced this concept to account...
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