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Diffusion of Responsibility and the Bystander Effect

Diffusion of Responsibility and the Bystander Effect

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Diffusion of Responsibility and the Bystander Effect

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  1. Diffusion of Responsibility and the Bystander Effect John Cessna Megan Remec Nicole Meehan

  2. Overview • What is the diffusion of responsibility? • What is the bystander effect? • Examples of the Diffusion of Responsibility • Examples of the Bystander Effect • Boondock Saints and the diffusion of Responsibility and the Bystander Effect.

  3. Diffusion of Responsibility • When others are present, our sense of responsibility decreases (“Bystander Apathy”). • Thus our obligation to help is divided among the people present. • When we are alone we perceive ourselves as 100 percent responsible. • When in a group we the group are 100 percent responsible and individually only a fraction of that 100 percent (“Why Don’t People Help”). • In a group of 5 people, we only see ourselves as 20 % responsible.

  4. Bystander Effect • Due to a decreased obligation to help by a diffusion of responsibility the members present in the situation become bystanders. • This leads to the bystander Effect. • Bystander Effect : a person’s unwillingness to help another person when other people are present. • According to Latané and Darley, people help more often and more quickly when they are alone. • View Social Norm • We use other people’s behavior to help gauge the situation (Smith, Newman). • When we are in a group we are de-individualized.

  5. Examples… • To show further how responsibility is diffused… • Elevator • Confederates actually dropped coins, to see the helping behavior that was exhibited. • 1 v 1 40 % exhibited helping behavior • 6 bystanders, 20 % exhibited helping behavior.

  6. Examples… • Boondock Saints • Kitty Genovese • 38 people witnessed the murder of Kitty Genovese and did nothing. • The brothers viewed the whole city of Boston as bystanders. They no longer wanted to be bystanders. They began to take action. No longer exhibiting the bystander effect.

  7. References • “Bystander Apathy.” 7 3 (2005). Psych-Info. • Myers. D. The Adaptive Mind.7th ed. New York: Worth, 2003. “Social Psychology: once overlooked now a staple.” APAMonitor Online. 12 (1999). • Newman, D. Smith, R. “Why Don’t People Help?” 14 9 (1999). • “Social Psychology: once overlooked now a staple.” APAMonitor Online. 12 (1999).

  8. Conditions that strengthen conformity • Insecure, offering unwanted assistance or “losing face” in front bystanders • Behavior will be observed/judged • Group that has at least three people • The group is unanimous; look at other’s reactions in an emergency • Group’s status is admirable • No prior commitment to any response

  9. Step 1 – Will the Bystander Help? • Is the incident noticeable for the bystander? • Are there a lot of people around? • Noise, distractions

  10. Step 2 – Will the Bystander Help? • Can the situation clearly be identified as an emergency? • Pluralistic ignorance – others dictate our actions • If alone, 70% report situation as emergency within 4 minutes • With others present, only 12% report within 4 minutes • Darley & Latane, 1968

  11. Step 3 – Will the Bystander Help? • Based on the situation, am I responsible to act? • The more people present…less likely to take responsibility • If alone, 85% went to help victim • With others present, 31% went to help victim • Darley & Latane, 1968

  12. Step 4 – Will the Bystander Help? • Do I have skills/knowledge/some capacity to help the victim? • If answers to all steps are yes, then victim receives help • Situation noticeable? • Situation identified as emergency? • I have responsibility? • Can my actions help?

  13. Actions to counter bystander apathy • As a victim, single out one person in the crowd and appeal directly to them • In this way the person cannot diffuse their responsibility; it is placed on their shoulders • This counters pluralistic ignorance as one person in the crowd does help

  14. Examples • Stanford Prison Experiment • Diffusion of responsibility • Milgram’s Obedience Experiment • Prison Abuse in Iraq • Liverpool, England Murder

  15. Surveillance Tape - February 12, 1993; Strand Shopping Center near Liverpool

  16. Sequence of Events • The two boys kidnap James Bulger from the mall • As they walked outside, the boy had to be carried because he was crying for his mother and refused to walk anymore

  17. Sequence of Events • They continue to an isolated area under a bridge • The boys cover the injuries Many people notice the tears and blood but none intervene • James drags his feet, cries, and attempts to run away

  18. Sequence of Events • They go into three stores and are questioned by over a 15 people • Many give them directions to the police station • 2 ½ hours after kidnapping James, they take him to an area by train tracks • The boys throw stones and bricks, kick, punch, and hit James with an iron bar

  19. Sequence of Events • Thinking he is dead, they lay him on the railroad tracks before the train comes

  20. References • Latané, B. and Darley, J. M. (1970) The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn’t he help? Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall • Gladwell, Malcolm. (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. ISBN 0316316962. •,+bystander&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 Court TV website

  21. The Bystander Effect and Diffusion of Responsibility in The Boondock Saints

  22. Genovese Case • The film opens citing the textbook example of the Kitty Genovese case:

  23. The tone of the film is set with the preacher's monologue and the brother’s response • “We must fear…the indifference of good men” • “I do believe monsignor’s finally got the point.”

  24. The Saints represent the answer to diffusion of responsibility problem by taking on the work themselves. • They also represent the small groups of people who, when faced with an emergency, step out of the crowd and rise to action.

  25. The film establishes the problem of crime in America and shows that nobody is doing anything about it. • The film claims society is sitting by and watching this happen and that everyone wants someone else to do something.

  26. The film alludes to the fact that this style of justice is the only way anything can be done. • The message has dual-intent • The audience either agrees and is called to action • The audience disagrees and seeks to fight non-fictional instances using different means • Either way, the bystander effect/diffusion of responsibility is broken through audience action

  27. References • Boondock Saints, The. Dir. Troy Duffy. Perf. Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flannery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco. 1999. DiVX AVI. 20th Century Fox, 2002.