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Bystander Apathy Experiment

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Bystander Apathy Experiment

Bystander Apathy Experiment (1968)
On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was attacked and stabbed by a man later identified as Winston Moseley. Despite Genovese’s cries for help, none of the people in the nearby apartment building who heard her cries called police to report the incident. The attack first began at 3:20 AM, but it was not until 3:50 AM that someone first contacted police.
In 1968, John Darley and Bibb Latane became intrigued by the incident and decided to conduct an experiment which was given the name the Bystander Apathy Experiment. Their main goal was to figure out why people, in cases like Genovese’s, did not come for help. These two psychologists asked volunteers to participate in a discussion which was claimed to be extremely personal. Each individual was separated in different rooms and had to communicate with each other through an intercom. During this “extremely personal” conversation, one of the members would fake an epileptic seizure through the intercom. When the volunteer believed that he/she was the only other person in the discussion, 85% left the room and began to seek help for the individual with a fake seizure. Next, the two psychologists decided to see what would happen if three or four people were in this discussion, instead of just one; and just as they suspected, only 31% went to look for help once the seizure began.
So what exactly is the bystander effect? Psychologists predict there are two major factors that contribute to the bystander effect. First, the presence of other people creates a diffusion of responsibility. Because there are other observers, individuals think, “Well I’m not the only one here; surely someone else will come along help; it doesn’t have to be me”. We just need the slightest excuse to do nothing. Second, people want to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways. When...

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