The Bystander Effect: Why Do We Stand By?

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On March 13, 1964, Catherine Genovese was stabbed repeatedly and killed by a man and it all could have been avoided had the numerous amounts of neighbors, from half a dozen to 30 people, reported the act to the police. The idea that is exhibited in this example is know as the bystander effect. It was once thought that people do not intervene in horrible acts because people were less caring. John Darley and Bibb Latane later said it was due to a feeling frozen in a certain situation. One contribution to this feeling is pluralistic ignorance, which believes that people are not seeing things as we do. This could be in a situation where we understand that there is a need to help someone, while others do not. The second factor that contributes to the "freezing" feeling is diffusion of responsibility. This states that people feel responsible when they are with more people.

Picture of Catherine Genovese

One example that comes to mind is when my family and I traveled to Los Angeles for spring break. We walked down to Venice Beach and along the way we saw a little boy crying and looking around for his family. I watched as numerous people walked by and I also felt "frozen" and did not intervene. However, my brother was willing to ask the boy and his family was near by. An additional example was in the news not to long ago. The video shows a young girl walking on the street in China when a vehicle strikes her and then the driver drives away. Numerous people walk past and do not stop to help the girl as she lies in the street. The bystander effect is sad to me in the sense that people find it difficult to help someone that might be in need and I am curious to why people feel challenged to intervene in maters such as these.


Video for Bystander Effect in China


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I have seen numerous examples of the bystander effect throughout my life and here on campus. A few weeks ago I have seen people fall on their bikes or drop their books or something of that sort in the mall and no other students walking by offer to help or give assistance. I also wonder what exactly causes people to not offer to help. At least in my case, when you are in the presence of more people, you feel less responsible and figure that at least somebody will go help them so I don't have to. I try my best to assist anybody when something like that happens to somebody, but I know I have fallen prey to not taking any actions. I wonder if the bystander effect is similar to when people in classes typically don't raise their hands to answer questions in during lectures. We assume somebody else knows the answer so we don't have to voice our opinion. For our society I just hope people can do the right thing in the presence of others when it is truly needed.

sometime in January I was walking back from my night class and witnessed a girl get hit by a car. she was screaming hysterically but I stood across the street positive that someone was going to help her. luckily there was at least four people who got out of their cars to help her but at that moment I was on my phone ready to dial 911 but then i noticed other people were dialing ( or I assumed they would be dialing 911) But at that moment I realized how easy it was to fall into the bystander effect.

Although I have seen hundreds of instances of the bystander effect this year on campus, most recently I saw the opposite effect. As I was walking to class a girl walking past me dropped a folder and papers came flying out of it. The surprising thing I noticed was that everyone around me (probably about 4 or 5 people) sort of flinched when this happened and immediately went down to help her. I thought that no one would help her but the exact opposite event took place. I think this is pretty rare but I just thought it was interesting.

In my eyes, the bystander effect is really severe in present society. Take China for example, there are a lot of bystander examples. But several decades ago, people were proud of doing good things which can benefit the society. However, nowadays, people are dare to do to some degree. There was an effect that one day, an old woman fell down and a kind man came to lift her up. To his surprise, the old woman tell others that it was the man knocked her. This news was so popular in China and after that, a lot of people are not willing to help people who were hit by the accident in order to not be included. I think this kind of phenomenon makes the society worse.

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This page contains a single entry by vanre012 published on April 22, 2012 3:06 PM.

The Bystander Effect: Why Do We Stand By? was the previous entry in this blog.

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