The Bystander Effect

Imagine that you were living in Queens, NY back in the 60s in an apartment that faced a street. While you were starring from a window, you saw a woman being assaulted by a man and he was stabbing her in the gut. You rushed to pick up the phone to call for help but your roommate told you not to bother because they are probably hundreds of people calling right now. Then, you decided to listen to your roommate and not to call for help while you listened to the women screaming.

There is no need for imagination, because this story is true. The woman was Catherine Genovese, a 28-year-old daughter of Italian-American parents that she was known by the name "Kitty". More than 38 people who were living in the apartments across the street from which she was murdered witnessed her death. In fact, she was assaulted three times by the killer (he stabbed her and ran every time she called for help but returned when he found nobody came to rescue). Ask yourself, why the 38 people who witnessed the incident did no call the police early? Why they didn't do something about it?

Psychologists interpret this incident as an clear example for the bystander effect. Bystander effect is the likehood that an individual will intervene in an emergency goes down as the number of bystander increases. The people who were living in the apartments simply assumed that other people are calling for help, but they didn't now that THOSE other people are thinking the same way.

It is true; we tend not to help other people if we were in a crowded place because we assume that the help will be provided from other people than us. However, if we were in a place where they are less people around, the likehoood of us helping them increases. Psychologists concluded from different sets of experiments that bystanders provide help in an emergency situation 75% of the time when they are alone. However, 50% of the time when two bystanders are present and 30% of the time when they are more than 5 bystanders present. Judging from these figures, no wonder the 38 people who witnessed the incident of Kitty's murder did not do anything.

The next time when you need help or in an emergency situation say drowning in the sea, you better hope that there are less people on the beach or you will never receive help.

2 Responses to "The Bystander Effect"

Gina (visit their site)

that is so interesting... thanks for posting this real life case study. I am enjoying your blog...

Fallen Angel (visit their site)

Really!! That's so nice of you. Thank You
*checking out Gina's blog*