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Phenomenon Bystander Effect

Referencing Styles : Harvard | Pages : 1

The phenomenon Bystander Effect, directing to the social psychology, where the psychological behaviour of people has been presented, which restricts them from offering help to victims in presence of other people. The Effect reflects that more the presence of bystanders, the less help will be offered by individuals. There are numerous factors that lead to Bystander Effect, group cohesiveness, diffusion of the responsibility and ambiguity. These identified factors impact the mutual denial of the severity of specific situations. It stimulates in the existence of other people, psychologically discourages the person for intruding in emergency situations. John Darley and Bibb Latané popularized the theory during the case of Kitty Genovese murder, 1964 in the New York City. The woman was murdered by being stabbed outside her won flat and the neighbours did not helped or called police. They established the application of the Bystander Effect as they depicted the ‘Diffusion of Responsibility’, where the onlookers or the neighbours restricted themselves from interfering in the incident due to the presence of other people/witnesses and in the presence of strong social influence, by monitoring and manipulating their actions on the basis of their surrounding. The classic studies by the researchers John Darley and Bibb Latané reflected that the time taken by an individual to react in a needful situation is directly proportional to the number of individuals existent during the incidence. During an experiment of the Bystander Effect, the subjects selected for the experiment were aligned and were placed near one of the three treatment situations. They were placed alone and with the presence of two more participants, who were acting as normal participants. The participants were asked to fill up questionnaires for the purpose of distraction, then the room started filling with smoke. In the case where the participants were alone, around 75 percent of the participants immediately complained the incidence to experimenters. On the other hand, around 38 percent of the participants from the room with other two participants reported about the smoke. The final group reflected a different picture, only 10 percent of the confederates reported about the smoke after the state of ignorance and noticing.

Two major factors stimulating Bystander effect are presence of people/witnesses and social acceptance. Existence of other people leads to the diffusion of one’s responsibility due to the close observation of other people. The responsibility gets diffused and decreases the intensity of reaction, as it is perceived that the pressure of taking actions is shared. Another factor leading to the Bystander Effect is the aspect of social acceptance. The people tends behave in a certain way based on the behaviour society expects them to portray. When in a needful situation, an individual does not react; people present in the situation restrict themselves from any reaction, as they perceived the single restriction as the socially accepted behaviour. Another set of researchers witnessed that, in an ambiguous situation, the onlookers tend to not react or intervene in the situation. The nature of a situation acts as the major influence. At a time of crisis, situations are chaotic and unclear. In the process of understanding the series of events occurring in front of them may lead to an undesirable outcome. One of the most popular examples that reflected the application of Bystander effect is the infamous case of Kitty Genovese murder.  The incidence took place on the month of March’13 of the year 1964, when Genovese was on the way from office to home. When she was approaching the door to her apartment, she was strangled and hit by the man named, Winston Moseley. Kitty Genovese screamed for help repeatedly but not a single person from her apartment responded in the situation by calling the police. The attack occurred around 3:20 a.m. and till the time 3:50 a.m. someone contacted police.

The state of inaction is believed can be hindered by just the awareness of the psychological behaviour in such situations. The understanding regarding the nature of holding back by the Bystander Effect can break the cycle of silence by realising the ability of overcoming the psychological state for help. If an individual is in such situation, the person can direct her or his focus towards a single individual in the crowd, which can lead to the realization of individual for offering help. Therefore, seeing that individual the reverse effect will be active, the people standing there, witnessing the situation will accept the prime social responsibility to help the person in need. The Bystander effect can be very dangerous and restricting for the person in need or unusual situation as it holds the capacity of restricting even a person or group of people who generally reflects the tendency to help in needful situations. Spreading the awareness about the theory/concept can break the Bystander Effect. Bystander Effect can also be solved by influencing a single person in the crowd for eliminating the ‘diffusion of responsibility’.


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