Bystander Intervention and Diffusion of Responsibility

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    • 00:02


    • 00:33

      SPEAKER: Bystander intervention effect.The greater number of bystanders whowitness an emergency, the less likelyit is that any one of them will intervene to help.Imagine yourself walking home from a party late at night.Would you feel safer on New Year's Evewhen the streets overflow with fellow revelers or on January 2

    • 00:58

      SPEAKER [continued]: when you might expect to see only a small number of people?

    • 01:01

      BETSY SPARROW: So you'd probably besurprised to learn the circumstances under which youare more likely to receive help.Research has shown that if one person notices your distressthey're more likely to help you than if they're in a big group.So people are actually less likely to helpif they are surrounded by many other people.

    • 01:19

      SPEAKER: This program explores the topic of bystanderintervention and diffusion of responsibility using historicalbackground detailing classic psychological experiments thathelp psychologists determine that bystanders failto intervene when they cannot complete each stepin a five-step process that could otherwise incite

    • 01:40

      SPEAKER [continued]: a decision to help.Historical background.In March of 1963, a horrific crimeoccurred in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queensin New York City.A man with a knife attacked a young womannamed Kitty Genovese on the street outside her apartment.

    • 02:03

      SPEAKER [continued]: The attacker stabbed and brutalizedMs. Genovese for 35 minutes as she screamed desperatelyfor help.Up to 38 of Kitty's neighbors witnessed the crime.They either heard or saw it from their windows.Not one of them came to her aid.Not one of them called the police.

    • 02:24

      SPEAKER [continued]: The incident became national news.And Americans wondered at, lamented,and indicted the heartlessness of the City That Never Sleeps.Two psychologists, Bibb Latane and John Darley,at the time professors at Columbia and NYUrespectively, suspected there was moregoing on than the hardening of hearts and minds

    • 02:46

      SPEAKER [continued]: in an urban environment.

    • 02:48

      BETSY SPARROW: Latane and Darley believedthat no one helped Kitty Genovese becauseof a large number of observers, not in spite of them.So they conducted three experiments in the late 1960sto test this.

    • 02:59

      SPEAKER: Classic psychological experiments.Epileptic seizure study.Participants were seated alone in a room with an intercomsystem.Individual participants were told that either he or shewould be the only participant in the experiment,

    • 03:22

      SPEAKER [continued]: that one other person would also be participatingin the experiment in a nearby room,or that four more people would be participatingin the experiment in nearby rooms.The intercom broadcast the soundsof a person having an epileptic seizure.

    • 03:44

      SPEAKER [continued]: 85% of participants responded whenthey thought they were alone.The percentage of respondents decreasedas the perceived number of fellow observers increased.More bystanders decreased the likelihoodof an individual response.Response took almost three times longer for the few individuals

    • 04:07

      SPEAKER [continued]: who did respond if they've perceiveda group of fellow bystanders.In terms of response time, here's what happened.The vertical axis represents the cumulative percentageof bystander participants who responded by seeking help.The horizontal axis represents the number

    • 04:28

      SPEAKER [continued]: of seconds elapsed after the bystanders firstheard the seizure through the intercom.The yellow line represents peoplewho thought they were the only bystanderwithout any other fellow participants.Almost 90% of bystanders who thought they were aloneresponded within about a minute.Within this group, there was a 100% response

    • 04:50

      SPEAKER [continued]: within a couple of minutes of hearing the seizure.The red line represents bystanderswho believe the experiment had one other participantbesides themselves.Only about 60% of them responded in the same amount of timethat 90% of bystanders who thought they were aloneresponded.Only 80% responded to the seizure at all.

    • 05:15

      SPEAKER [continued]: The blue line represents participantswho thought they were participatingwith four other bystanders.Only 30% of them responded within the rangeof the first minute.And only 60% responded at all.Again, the greater number of perceived bystanders,the less likely an individual response became.

    • 05:41

      SPEAKER [continued]: Smoky room study.In this experiment, also conducted by Latane and Darley,each participant was seated in a roomwith either two other real participantsor two confederates who had been planted by the experimenters.Then the room filled with smoke.The confederates didn't react at all.

    • 06:02

      SPEAKER [continued]: The real participants were free to react or not accordingto their own sense of urgency or lack thereof.Latane and Darley found that, overall,people in the room with others wereless likely to report the smoke.The non-report rate was highest when the participant waswith two other people who did not react.

    • 06:25

      SPEAKER [continued]: In an ambiguous situation, peoplelook to others for cues for how to react.Lady in distress.

    • 06:35

      BETSY SPARROW: Latane and Darley conducted another experiment,which has become a classic.What they did was they had men sitting in a room.They were either sitting alone, sitting with a friend,or sitting with a stranger.While they were sitting there, they heard a woman in distressoutside the room.What they were measuring was to see whether or notthe men would help.And what you might expect is that men

    • 06:56

      BETSY SPARROW [continued]: who were sitting with a friend, that kind of social pressure,would help at greater rates.But instead, what they found is that it continuedto be that a single observer, the man sitting alonein the room, helped at the greatest rate.The big questions here are, why arepeople in groups less likely to be helpful?What have we learned from the Latane and Darley experiments?

    • 07:16

      BETSY SPARROW [continued]: Well, two terms emerged which help explain crowd effectson bystander intervention.The first is pluralistic ignorance.And the second is diffusion of responsibility.

    • 07:27

      SPEAKER: The idea of pluralistic ignorancesuggests that people follow what they believeare the unanimous beliefs of the rest of the group.We monitor the reactions of others.And when no one else intervenes, weconform with the approach of non-interventioneven if we think help may be needed.The term diffusion of responsibility

    • 07:49

      SPEAKER [continued]: means that the pressure from any one person to interveneis reduced as a function of the number of other people present.The total amount of responsibilityis divided by the number of observers.Responsibility is diffused throughout the group,so no individual feels enough responsibility to intervene.

    • 08:12

      BETSY SPARROW: So Latane and Darleytheorized that the decision to help was a five-step process.

    • 08:19

      SPEAKER: The five-step helping process.Step one, first you've got to noticethat something is happening.Second, you've got to interpret the meaningof what's happening, i.e.realize it is an emergency.Step three, assume responsibility

    • 08:41

      SPEAKER [continued]: for what is happening.Step four, know how to help.Step five, provide help.

    • 08:50

      BETSY SPARROW: This is important to emphasize.People will not help unless they completeeach stage of the five-step helping process.And the crowd can interfere at any one of those stages.So I think it's illustrative to lookat some examples of success and failureat each of the five stages of the helping process.

    • 09:12

      SPEAKER: Failure to notice something is wrong.

    • 09:16

      BETSY SPARROW: John Darley and his student,Daniel Batson, now at Princeton, conducted a studyto see how variations of personality and situationmight impact helping behavior.

    • 09:27

      SPEAKER: Seminary students were askedto go from one building to anotherto perform a speech where they would, unbeknownst to themat the start of the experiment, passby a man slumped in an alleyway.

    • 09:38

      BETSY SPARROW: The two factors they manipulatedwere religiosity and time pressure.

    • 09:42

      SPEAKER: The experimenters manipulated the amount of timethe seminary students were given to get to the second building.They also manipulated the topics of the speechesthe students were instructed to give.Jobs for seminary student or the parable of the good Samaritan.What did they discover?

    • 10:05

      BETSY SPARROW: What they found wasthat only the amount of time the students had to get from onebuilding to another impacted how much they helpedthe man lying on the street.So the seminary students in a hurrydidn't help any more than anyone else.

    • 10:19

      SPEAKER: Failure to interpret the event as an emergency.In urban areas, it is common to seecrowds of people stepping over or passingsomeone lying on the sidewalk.They assume the person is homeless and asleepnot that the person needs medical assistance.A similar process occurs in the smoky room study.

    • 10:41

      SPEAKER [continued]: People looked to each other to see how to interpret the smoke.Often people do this in offices or school buildingswhen a fire alarm goes off, waitingto see what others do before deciding to evacuate or not.In 1976, James Wilson at Cleveland State University

    • 11:02

      SPEAKER [continued]: found that the presence of an onlooker in the crowd wholooked visibly concerned increased helping behavior.Failure to assume responsibility.

    • 11:15

      BETSY SPARROW: The good news is that learningabout the bystander intervention effect in a psychology classhas been shown to increase helping behavior in real life.And if you're in a situation where you need help,actually assigning responsibilityto a specific person in the crowdwill increase the chances that you will be aided.

    • 11:35

      SPEAKER: In 1980, Shalom Schwartzat University of Wisconsin Madisonand Avi Gottlieb at Indiana Universitydemonstrated that while a victim's knowledgeof a bystander's presence does notaffect whether the bystander will help,the likelihood of helping does increaseif multiple observers are aware of each other.

    • 11:56

      BETSY SPARROW: So if Kitty Genovese's neighborshad actually been able to see each other,it's more likely one of them wouldhave intervened and helped her.

    • 12:04

      SPEAKER: Failure to know how to help.

    • 12:07

      BETSY SPARROW: The reality is a lotof people might be afraid of the consequences for themselvesif they help.And they might be afraid of facing social disapprovalof the people in the crowd around them.

    • 12:19

      SPEAKER: Hilda Pantin and Charles Carverat the University of Miami provided emergency trainingto participants by showing public service films.Exposure to such training eliminatedthe crowd's inhibition to help.Such training wore off after a couple of months.Ultimately, the presence of a professionally trained helper,

    • 12:40

      SPEAKER [continued]: e.g.ambulance driver or police officer,has the greatest impact.Failure to provide help.Lance Shotland Margaret Straw at Penn Stateconducted research in the mid 1970sthat looked at bystander response

    • 13:01

      SPEAKER [continued]: to a staged fight between a man and a woman.

    • 13:05

      BETSY SPARROW: The majority of observersassumed the pair was romantically involved.Given that assumption, they believedthat their interference would be unwelcome.Some people might be afraid of the consequences of helping.And they may be afraid of social disapprovalfrom the people around them.

    • 13:23

      SPEAKER: A woman being assaulted should shout, I don't know you.If you are in need of help yourself, do the following.One, single out someone and ask directly for help.Say, you there, in the blue coat!I need you to call 911.Two, provide an explanation for the situation.

    • 13:45

      SPEAKER [continued]: Instead of just yelling help, specifythat you do not know the person who is assaulting youor that you are being mugged.If you're a bystander, you should alwaystake your own safety into consideration.

    • 14:06

      SPEAKER [continued]: But perhaps now, you will be more aware of situationswhere you should intervene.Just because those around you seem unconcerned,they may actually be thinking the same thing you are.We assemble clues about ambiguous situationsfrom the visible reactions of others.But these may not reveal the truthabout the nature of the situation.

    • 14:26

      SPEAKER [continued]: You cannot assume that someone else has already notifiedauthorities when there are multiple observersof an emergency.In fact, the more people present,the less likely anything has been done.

Bystander Intervention and Diffusion of Responsibility

View Segments Segment :


Bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibility are two terms that are explained in depth in this documentary. Studies have shown that when there are a greater amount of witnesses to an emergency the less likely people will offer to help. We explore the historical background, the psychological experiments, and the five-step helping process for why this happens. Also, learn how to react if you are in an emergency situation, whether or not you are the victim or bystander.

Bystander Intervention and Diffusion of Responsibility

Bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibility are two terms that are explained in depth in this documentary. Studies have shown that when there are a greater amount of witnesses to an emergency the less likely people will offer to help. We explore the historical background, the psychological experiments, and the five-step helping process for why this happens. Also, learn how to react if you are in an emergency situation, whether or not you are the victim or bystander.

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