Diffusion of Responsibility

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  • The notion that the presence of others inhibits helping behaviors because of the belief that others in the group will intervene. This phenomenon has been used to explain the “Kitty Genovese incident.” Genovese was a young woman who was stabbed to death in Queens, New York, while many people witnessed the crime but failed to intervene because they assumed that someone else was already helping. Laboratory research has also provided support for this phenomenon, given that individuals who work in groups tend to diffuse responsibility and contribute less than they would if working individually. Indeed, the larger the group, the less responsibility each member assumes. For more information, see Latane and Nilda (1981).

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