Free Bystanders’ Effect Essay

The social psychological concept of the bystanders’ effect is more important in a community. The concept has been confirmed to happen due to factors of diffusion of responsibility,social influence, audience inhibition and overall lack of sense community. The diffusion of responsibility can happen onlookers witness an emergency situation and fail to intervene as a result of placing the responsibility on other onlookers, and believing other bystanders will intervene and aid (,2002).


New York Times reported a story of a young woman who was stabbed and died in the middle of the street of a particular street in a section of New York City. The public failed to assist the woman although there were more than 38 witnesses. Such cases of murders were rare but the incident received little public attention. It was only when the New York Times covered it when that public paid attention. There were about 38 witnesses yet no one took action. (Manning, 2007).

The murderer took more than thirty minutes to accomplish his evil action of killing Kitty Genovese yet none of the thirty eight witnesses who watched from the safety of their respective flats came to intervene for her, or even the took the telephone to alert the police to respond and hurry to the scene of crime. A myriad of news commentators, preachers and professors pondered and sought earnestly the reasons as to why such apparently inhumane and conscienceless action took place while people were just staring at it helplessly. All these individuals who delved in this matter to try and conceal what was actually transpiring among the action less people, come up with astonishing conclusions ranging from dehumanization to moral decay generated by urban environment to alienation and existential despair. Serious analysis on the matter also pointed out that other than indifference and apathy,there were other factors were involved.

Looking at this scenario, individuals witnessing an emergency case like dangerous and frightening stabbing mostly react with total confusion. There are definitely obvious humanitarian values and norms about aiding a person in distress, but this is contradicted by the irrational and rational fears about what might happen to an individual who intervenes. Some of these things that individuals confusingly explore before the decide to lend hands on the victims, are the common comments such as fears of physical harm, involvement in police that lead to loss of work jobs and days and other perceived dangers. In some particular circumstances, the values and norms preferring intervention actions might be hampered resulting in the individual resorting to remain motionless and not take any interest to help the victim. This scenario is known as the bystanders’ effect which actually means that individuals resolve to remain as non-intervening lot. One of these particular situations may be the presence of on-lookers.

Individuals who were looking out of their window were bound to see what was happening but chose not to act. However, it was very difficult for each of them to tell how the other onlookers were thinking and reacting. They may also have been scared of suffering the same fate had they intervened to save the victim’s life. These facts provide insight to what might have delayed or stopped them from helping. The responsibility of aiding the victim was diffused among the observers; probably there was also diffusion of blame for failing to take action and lastly.

A bystander present alone in a scene requiring emergency has higher of responding to the emergency. Although, the bystander may choose to ignore or choose to intervene, the response is internally motivated .Contrary to this case ,when there are many observers present at the scene requiring emergency one may not respond because the responsibility for intervention is shared among the on-lookers and is not extra ordinary to any particular bystander.

Potential blame may also be diffused among all the bystanders. In this case, individuals’ morals behaviors get separated from pertinent considerations to of personal reward or personal punishment. It is true that under circumstances of mob responsibility for any punishable act, the blame or punishment does not accrue to an individual.

Another assumption as to the reason why bystanders may behave the way they do on emergency scenes, is that one of the bystanders can assume that the one of the observers has initiated emergency action therefore rendering the response of that particular bystander will be redundant. Thus with this scenario, the other bystanders or the onlookers whose behaviors are not observed can also rationalize their actions by convincing themselves that someone is trying to assist the victim.

Looking at the case in question, we can develop a hypothesis t the higher the number of onlookers to an emergency, the less likely any of the bystanders will choose to intervene to help the victim in distress. One way that the preposition can to be tested is by creating a situation in which realistic emergency could happen and each onlooker could be prevented and blocked from communicating with others to avoid him/her getting information of the behaviors of others during the emergency. This would lead to assessment of the promptness and frequency of the individuals to react to the emergency problem.


A college student arrives at the laboratory and is ushered in into a small from which a communication system helps him speak to the other participants. The student was given explanations that he was to actively take part in discussion forum about personal challenges that come with college life. He is also informed that the communication will be held over the intercom system eliminating face-face discussion in order to prevent embarrassment. This method used was primarily to preserve anonymity of the involved subjects.

Through the discussion process,one of the other individuals underwent serious nervous seizure similar to epilepsy. During the fit, that particular individual was unable to communicate with the others to find out what the others were talking about or even know if there was any arrangement for emergency services.In this experiment, the speed in which the subjects reported the emergency was determined. The other variable was the number of the people the subject thought were present in the discussion group.

According to this experiment, all the subjects thought that the seizure was real e although it was simulated. The number of the bystanders an individual perceived to be present greatly affected the possibility of reporting the emergency. Based on the conducted experiment, an individual was less likely to respond if he thought others were also present. An interesting discovery was that that men and women have equal possibilities when it comes to responding to emergencies.

When the experiment was ended and the subjects went to report the fit incidence, they found the experimental assistant and reported that one of the subjects was sick. Some subjects did not go report the emergency and they portrayed signs of indifference and apathy a phenomenon that characterizes unresponsive bystanders. The seizure created a conflict that depicted avoidance-avoidance type. However, the individual subjects were worried about the shame and guilt they would feel if they did not help the victim. In addition to this also was the fact that the participants they feared to embarrass themselves by overreacting and ruining the experiment by vacating the interview room and destroying the anonymous nature of the experiment

The subjects who had knowledge that there were other bystanders present reduced their responsibility to help. These individuals were entangled in two negative alternatives of letting the victim to suffer and rushing to help. The explanation of bystander apathy and indifference lies more on the bystanders’ response to other observers than in presumed personality deficiencies of apathetic individuals. It also suggests that people are not necessarily non-interveners because of their personalities (Chekroun, 2002).


Chekroun, P. (2002). The bystander effect and social control behavior: the effect of the presence of others on people’s reactions to norm violations. European Journal Of Social Psychology, 32(6), 853-867.

Garcia, S. M., Weaver, K., Moskowitz, G. B., & Darley, J. M. (2002).Crowded Minds: The 

Implicit Bystander Effect. Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology, 83(4), 843-853.  doi:10.1037//0022-3514.83.4.843

Manning, R., Levine, M. & Collins, A. (2007). The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses. American Psychologist, 62(6), 555- 562.

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