Forget altruism sometimes people actually do nothing when they probably should do something
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Forget altruism…sometimes people actually do nothing when they probably should do something…. PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Forget altruism…sometimes people actually do nothing when they probably should do something…. Examine factors influencing bystanderism. Bystanderism or the Bystander Effect.

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Forget altruism…sometimes people actually do nothing when they probably should do something….

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Forget altruism…sometimes people actually do nothing when they probably should do something….

Examine factors influencing bystanderism

Bystanderismor the Bystander Effect

  • Bystanderism can be defined as the phenomenon that an individual is less likely to help in an emergency situation when passive bystanders are present (Darley and Latané, 1968).

The case of Kitty Genovese

  • murdered 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.

The case of Kitty Genovese

  • 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.


  • IlanHalimi was a French Jew who was kidnapped in Paris by Moroccan “barbarians,” as they like to be called, on Janury 21, 2006, and tortured for 24 days, finally dying on February 13. During this time, his kidnappers, at least 20 of them, beat him all over his body, especially his testicles, completely wrapped his head in duct tape, except for his mouth, so he could breathe and eat, stabbed him, burned his body and face with lighters and cigarettes, and broke his fingers in order to extract a ransom of 450,000 Euros from his family. They stripped him, they scratched him, they cut him with knives, and finally poured gasoline on him and set him afire.

  • During these three weeks, neighbors in the apartment block where his kidnappers had taken him (and where they lived) heard the commotion and came to watch. No one ever called the police. 27 people have so far been charged with joining in. 19 people have been convicted and given long prison sentences. One of the torturer’s fathers knew what was happening and did nothing to stop them. This man, AlcinoRibeiro, was sentenced to 8 months, but this sentence was suspended. He has served no time.

  • Those neighbors known only to have watched were not convicted, most not even indicted. Halimi was found handcuffed and bound with nylon rope, naked, to a tree about 40 yards inside a woodlot from a railway outside Paris, on February 13. More than 80% of his body had been burned with acid, as well as gasoline, to the point that he was difficult to recognize. He had severe contusions, blood blisters, and hematomas covering most of his body, to the point that he was more blue than flesh-colored, multiple broken bones, one ear and one big toe missing, and his testicles looked like “blackened oranges.”Halimi died en route to a hospital.

Topsy the Elephant

  • Not just Topsy the Elephant, but a rather long series of animals, all of which had shown themselves to be a danger to humans. This included horses, lions, tigers, and bears. Edison was happy to oblige the state of NY in executing these “menaces to society,” by employing alternating current, but his ulterior motive was merely to show the world the danger of alternating current, invented by Nikola Tesla, his arch-rival. Edison’s direct current didn’t have the strength to electrocute an elephant, and he considered it safer.

  • So, on January 4, 1903, at Luna Park Zoo, Coney Island, Topsy was hooked up to Edison’s lighting plant, and electrocuted with 6,600 volts of AC. But this was after they fed her carrots that had been soaked in cyanide, just to be sure. They deemed Topsy to be a permanent threat to humans, as she had killed three handlers in three incidents, one of which involved a handler, who regularly whipped her, trying to feed her a lighted cigarette just to watch her suffer. She stomped on him.

  • 1,500 people watched, and no one said a word in complaint. The funny thing is that the ASPCA, which is supposed to protect the rights of animals, considered hanging to be cruel, as it would cause strangulation, not a snap of the neck, and yet had no problem with cyanide poisoning and electrocution.

The Richmond High School Incident

  • The events that transpired on the night of October 27, 2009.

  • The girl’s name has not been released to date, as she is 15 years old, but the accounts of the crime all agree, and it is beyond belief. For 2 and a half hours, while the High School Homecoming Dance was taking place inside the gymnasium, approximately 10 men gang-raped the 15-year-old student, beating her savagely the whole time, all the while 10 others stood around laughing and taking pictures with their cell phones.

  • The crowd eventually numbered more than 20, and no one called the police. No one went inside to tell a security guard or a policeman, several of which were on campus at the time. A little earlier, the assistant principal looked out his office window and saw 12 to 15 grown men sitting around near the scene of the crime, none of whom had identification badges, as is required, and none of whom appeared to be a teenager, and the assistant principal did not call the police, or alert any teachers or students. He returned to his job and ignored them.

The Holocaust

  • The most repugnant, globally violent disgrace of the reputation of humanity gave rise to the equally infamous use of the phrase “diffusion of responsibility,” as the Nazi officers tried at Nuremberg all claimed the same defense, “We were just following orders.”

  • the populations of the villages near these camps, Dachau, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen, and Ravensbruck, to name a few, knew perfectly well of the atrocities and horror inside the camps. The camps were established near fairly large towns and cities, the inhabitants of which could not have ignored the stench coming from them. Allied soldiers all reported smelling camps before finding them, from as far as 20 miles if the wind blew right.

Theory of the unresponsive bystanderLatané & Darley (1970)

  • 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:

Theory of the unresponsive bystanderLatané & Darley (1970)

  • Diffusion of responsibility:

  • Responsibility is diffused when more bystanders are present and this reduces the psychological costs of not intervening.

Theory of the unresponsive bystanderLatané & Darley (1970)

2. Informational social influence (pluralistic ignorance):

  • If the situation is ambiguous people will look to other people around to see what they do.

Theory of the unresponsive bystanderLatané & Darley (1970)

3. 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).

Cognitive Decision Model.Latané and Darley (1968)

They argue that helping requires that the bystander:

  • Notice the situation (if you are in a hurry you may not even see what is happening).

Cognitive Decision Model.Latané and Darley (1968)

2. 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.

Cognitive Decision Model.Latané and Darley (1968)

3. Accept some personal responsibility for helping even though other people are present.

4. Consider how to help (although you may be unsure of what to do or doubt your skills).

Cognitive Decision Model.Latané and Darley (1968)

5. 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.

Experiment to investigate bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibilityLatané and Darley (1968)


  • To investigate if the number of witnesses of an emergency influences people’s helping in an emergency situation.


  • As part of a course credit, 72 students (59 female and 13 male) participated in the experiment.

Experiment to investigate bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibilityLatané and Darley (1968)

  • They were asked to discuss what kind of personal problems new college students could have in an urban area.

  • Each participant sat in a booth alone with a pair of headphones and a microphone.

  • They were told that the discussion took place via an intercom to protect the anonymity of participants.

Experiment to investigate bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibilityLatané and Darley (1968)

  • At one point in the experiment a participant (a confederate) staged a seizure.

  • The independent variable (IV) of the study was the number of persons (bystanders) that the participant thought listened to the same discussion.

  • The dependant variable (DV) was the time it took for the participant to react from the start of the victim’s fit until the participant contacted the experimenter.

Experiment to investigate bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibilityLatané and Darley (1968)


  • The number of bystanders had a major effect on the participant’s reaction.

  • Of the participants in the alone condition, 85% went out and reported the seizure.

  • Only 31% reported the seizure when they believed that there were four bystanders.

What were the factors do you think played in these results?

  • Probably all THREE reasons of the bystander effect!!!

  • OK…you evaluate this one for me….

Bystander Effect

  • Diffusion of Responsibility

  • Pluralistic Ignorance

  • Evaluation Apprehension







The subway samaritanPilliavin et al. (1969)


  • The aim of this field experiment was to investigate the effect of various variables on helping behavior.


  • Teams of students worked together with a victim, a model helper, and observers. The IV was whether the victim was drunk or ill (carrying a cane), and black or white.

The subway samaritanPilliavin et al. (1969)

  • The group performed a scenario where the victim appeared drunk or a scenario where the victim appeared ill.

  • The participants were subway travelers who were observed when the “victim” staged a collapse on the floor short time after the train had left the station. The model helper was instructed to intervene after 70 seconds if no one else did.

The subway samaritanPilliavin et al. (1969)


  • The results showed that a person who appeared ill was more likely to receive help than one who appeared drunk. In 60% of the trials where the victim received help more than one person offered assistance.

The subway samaritanPilliavin et al. (1969)


  • The researchers did not find support for “diffusion of responsibility”.

  • They argue that this could be because the observers could clearly see the victim and decide whether or not there was an emergency situation.

The subway samaritanPilliavin et al. (1969)

  • Pilliavin et al. found no strong relationship between the number of bystanders and speed of helping, which is contrary to the theory of the unresponsive bystander.

The subway samaritanPilliavin et al. (1969)


  • This study has higher ecological validity than laboratory experiments.

The cost reward model of helpingPilliavin et al. (1969)

  • The theory stipulates that both cognitive (cost-benefit analysis) and emotional factors (unpleasant emotional arousal) determine whether bystanders to an emergency will intervene.

The cost reward model of helpingPilliavin et al. (1969)

  • observation of an emergency situation that leads to an emotional arousal and interpretation of that arousal (e.g. empathy, disgust, fear).

This serves as motivation to either help or not, based on evaluation of costs and rewards of helping:

  • costs of helping (e.g. effort, embarrassment, physical harm)

  • costs of not helping (e.g. self-blame and blame from others)

  • rewards of helping (e.g. praise from victim and self)

  • rewards of not helping (e.g. being able to continue doing whatever one was doing).

Evaluation of the model

  • The model assumes that bystanders make a rational cost-benefit analysis rather than acting intuitively on an impulse.

  • It also assumes that people only help for egoistic motives. This is probably not true.

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