The Bystander Effect: A shocking Phenomenon.
In the early morning hours of March 13, 1963, a women named Kitty Genovese was brutally stabbed to death in front of her New York apartment. Her desperate cries for help were heard from blocks away, yet nobody lifted a finger to call for help until about thirty minutes after the horrifying attack began (Newman 21). Was it the fear of becoming involved, the fear of becoming hurt, or was it just callousness? In the following paragraphs, this essay will discuss the causes of the bystander effect, including, diffusion of responsibility, unclear perceptions, and the disregard of alarms.
When this story appeared in the papers around the country, the public was outraged at what had taken place. Some psychiatrists blamed the behavior on "bystander apathy" or "urban alienation" (Newman 22). One factor that causes bystander apathy in a big city such as New York is diffusion of responsibility. Diffusion of responsibility refers to the assumption that duty and accountability can be divided among the memebers of the group (Seagmon 598). That is, the subject is less likely to respond, or respond more slowly, when others were present than when he or she was only observer of the emergency (Pantin 100). This phenomenon has come to be known as the "bystander effect." Because everyone was waiting for someone else to do something, no one took action. Two psychiatrists named Bibb Latane and John Darley conducted an experiment to test this theory on bystander effect (Newman 22). In the experiment there were three rooms, the first with only one bystander, the second room with five bystanders, and the third room with ten bystanders. In each case they had the bystanders observe a crime and found that if one person is alone and witnesses a crime, it is one hundred percent his or her responsibility to take action. These researchers consistently found that as the number of bystanders increased, the likeliness that anyone would help decreased (Newman 22).