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If you ’ ve ever taken a psychology class,
you ’ ve probably heard the shocking story
of Kitty Genovese.
As the story goes,
she was murdered one night
in 1964 with 38 witnesses, yet no one helped
or even called the police until it was toolate.
Reports about this horrible,
bizarre event sparked research on what came to be known
as the bystander effect.
Despite what you ’ d think, it says that, sometimes,
someone is actually less likely
to help if there are others around.
But even though it ’ s talked about
in every intro psych course,
the bystander effect isn’t
as simple as “more people equals worse oddsof getting help.” Sometimes,
more is better,
and there are other factors that matter, too. Oh,
That original story of Kitty’s murder isn’tentirely true.
After the New York Times published their story about Kitty Genovese,
scientists set to work
trying to figure out why so many witnesseshadn’t responded.
The first major study was published
in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1968.
In it, two researchers created a similar situationin the lab.
They had 72 undergrads come
in to what they thought was a study on common
problems in students’ lives.
Each participant was seated alone in a room
通过对讲机 可以与一名 两名
with an intercom to share their problems
with one, two or five other so-called” participants”
although they were actually recordings. Then,
one of these pre-recorded participants pretended to have a seizure,
and the scientists timed
how long it took for the undergrad toget help.
They found that the more bystanders there were,
the longer it took
if they got help at all.
When they were alone, 85% of participantsgot assistance.
But in the largest group of five bystanders,
only 31% did. Admittedly,
most people were concerned about the sick person,
but they didn ’ t know if
they should do something.
And so the bystander effect was born.
Since then, multiple studies have confirmed this effect,
but they ’ ve also found it isn ’ t
always as straightforward as it seems. Sometimes,
people are more likely to help with bystanders,
or simply aren ’ t affected by their presence.
One major influence on this is the bystandersthemselves.
Not surprisingly, people who are
in a hurry are typically less likely to stop and help someone.
And people who are highly skilled
in a certain emergency — like nurses
trained to handle medical situations — are also
more likely to try to help, whether bystanders
are there or not.
More interestingly, though, making a commitmentalso matters.
In a 2015 study in France,
a man sat down his bag and asked either one specific person
to watch it, everyone in general to watch it,
or said nothing, then headed to a nearby
the researchers faked the backpack gettingstolen.
They repeated trials of this until they had a total
of 150 different bystanders — 50
for each scenario. Ultimately,
the more direct of a commitment,
the more likely people were to intervene when
someone took the bag.
Other studies suggest that responses
in situations like this have to do with a couple of things.
One is social influence.
In general, when you aren ’ t sure what is going on,
you probably tend to look at other
people for more information.
And if no one else seems to be concerned,
then maybe this guy ’ s backpack isn ’ t a
big deal — so you don ’ t do anything,
just like everyone else.
Another factor is diffusion of responsibility.
If something happens when you ’ re
in a big group — like some participants in this backpack
study — it isn’t up to only you to help.
Other people could help too. So,
you don ’ t feel as responsible
and don ’ t act, and suddenly that
man ’ s out of a bag.
Besides the bystanders, another major factor in general is the specific situation. Sometimes,
it’s hard to tell if someoneneeds help or not.
And many studies have found that when things are ambiguous,
people are less likely to jump in.
Which seems reasonable.
After all, if it turns out someone is just playing around,
it could be really embarrassing
to be wrong.
Research suggests that ambiguous situations can
make people fear being judged negatively,
which can stop them from acting.
The good news is that when it ’ s clear
that there is an emergency, the bystander effect
doesn’t usually happen.
A 2011 meta-analysis of more than 50 studies also showed
that if the situation is dangerous,
like if the perpetrator is still there,
people are more likely to help if there are bystanders.
And that makes sense.
Those situations are clearly an emergency,
and it ’ s safer if other people have your
although there are some trends,
a lot of different social and psychological factors
factors determine whether or not someone willoffer help. Today,
research suggests that your best bet
in an emergency is to make it clear that you
do need assistance,
and to make individuals feel responsible for stepping in. Really,
though, it isn ’ t
that surprising that this effect isn ’ t totally straightforward.
Humans aren’t exactly clear-cut, so thebystander effect isn’t, either.
Even the original Kitty Genovese story wasn ’ t as black-and-white
as the New York Times reported.
****The truth is, 38 people did not witness the
When Kitty was first attacked on the street,
many may have briefly heard something, but
only a handful of people saw anything happeningin the dark.
And even then, it was the middle of the night,
and it was hard to tell what was going on.
In other words, it was ambiguous.
One person scared the attacker away by yelling out the window,
and injured Kitty tried
to get to her apartment. Then,
in the building ’ s entrance where people couldn ’ t see or
hear her very well,the attacker came back.
Police were called but didn ’ t arrive
until it was too late to save her.
The newspaper article wasn ’ t published until two weeks
after the event, so there was time for details to get a little fuzzy. Thankfully,
we have researchers studying this phenomenon to make sure
that ’ s less likely
to happen again.
Thanks for watching this episode of SciShowPsych!
If you ’ d like to dig deeper
into some of the topics you might ’ ve covered in Psych 101,
you can watch our episode about Maslow’sHierarchy of Needs.
Turns out, that’s not as helpful as you’dthink, either.
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