Examine factors influencing byst

Examine factors influencing bystanderism

  • Bystanderism can be defined as the phenomenon that an individual is less likely to help in an emergency situation when passive bystanders are present.
  • The background for research on “bystanderism” was the Kitty Genovese murder in New York City in 1964. She was attacked, raped, and stabbed several times by a psychopath. Later, a number of witnesses explained that they had either heard screaming or seen a man attacking the woman over a period of 30 minutes. None intervened or called the police until it was too late. Afterwards they said they said they did not want to become involved or thought that somebody else would intervene. This incident inspired social psychologists to explore factors that may influence whether people will help or not in an emergency situation.

Latané & Darley (1970) Theory of the unresponsive bystander:

According to the theory the presence of other people or just the perception that other people are witnessing the event will decrease the likelihood that an individual will intervene in an emergency due to psychological processes like:

  • Diffusion of responsibility: Responsibility is diffused when more bystanders are present and this reduces the psychological costs of not intervening.
  • Informational social influence (pluralistic ignorance): If the situation is ambiguous people will look to other people around to see what they do.
  • Evaluation apprehension: Individual bystanders are aware that other people are present and may be afraid of being evaluated negatively if they react (fear of social blunders).

Latané and Darley suggested a cognitive decision model. They argue that helping requires that the bystander:

  1. Notice the situation (if you are in a hurry you may not even see what is happening).
  1. Interpret the situation as an emergency (e.g. people screaming or asking for help, which could also be interpreted as a family quarrel which is none of your business.
  1. Accept some personal responsibility for helping even though other people are present.
  1. Consider how to help (although you may be unsure of what to do or doubt your skills).
  1. Decide how to help (you may observe how other people react or decide that it is too dangerous to intervene).

At each of these stages, the bystander can make a decision to help or not.



Study to use: Latané and Darley (1968)

Pilliavin et al. (1969) The cost reward model of helping

The theory stipulates that both cognitive (cost-benefit analysis) and emotional factors (unpleasant emotional arousal) determine whether bystanders to an emergency will intervene. The model focuses on egoistic motivation to escape an unpleasant emotional state (opposite of altruistic motivation; the empathy-altruism model)

Study to use: Pilliavin et al. (1969)