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Bystander Effect in Psychology

Essay Sample on Psychology: What Lies Behind the Bystander Effect?

The concept of “bystander effect” is frequently discussed in psychological lectures, video materials, books, and articles. Besides, in numerous everyday situations, this notion may be mentioned as well. Actually, this “bystander apathy,” as it is called, in other words, refers to a situation when a person is less prone to help someone in need when there are other people around. The detrimental effect of this situation is that, if there are a lot of such bystanders during some emergency or accident, the person in need won’t get adequate help. Each of these bystanders will refuse to take responsibility for own initiative and actions, and will thus think that the responsibility for a quick response lies on someone else.

The first mention of this notion dates back to the late 1960s when social psychologists B. Latane and J. Darley introduced this term after the murder case of Kitty Genovese. The psychologists conducted a thorough research on the case and, according to the results of their findings and analysis, two concepts within the framework of the bystander effect were identified: social influence and diffusion of responsibility.

Each person’s feeling of social responsibility is weakened when there is a greater number of bystanders nearby. For example, if some kind of a crime happens in the street where there are a lot of people, many of them will ignore the situation, wondering, “Why should it be I who has to do something or help somebody?” Actually, this feeling of social responsibility becomes really diminished. When referring to the murder case of Kitty Genovese, more than 30 people were witnesses of the crime. It can be concluded that each of the present persons viewed his/ her social responsibility as less important and not decisive to help out in the event.

The role of society or even its influence on the bystander effect manifestation resembles that of an intensifier. According to this theoretical approach, under regular circumstances, a person’s reaction or response to a specific trigger depends on the reaction of other people nearby. This very case is a striking example how a person is dependent on others in the society (is a social creature).

Thus, it may be concluded that a person is less prone to help a victim of some event or just a person in need if they do not observe other people being involved in the process of helping out.