Description: If you heard the name Kitty Genovese? If you had an introductory psychology course with a section on social psychology, then you probably have. In the standard introductory psychology textbook including my own, is usually some account of Kitty’s death and of some large number of witnesses who heard her screams and who did not report the incident to the police or otherwise intervene. While that may not be a completely accurate account, the fact is Kitty was killed and Winston Moseley, the man who murdered her died in prison last week. There are a multitude of examples of situations where bystanders fail to intervene when others need assistance. Why do you think that might be? Would you do something like that? What might we do to reduce the rate of bystander apathy?
Source: Why We Still Look Away: Kitty Genovese, Jamie Bulger and the Bystander Effect. Sarah Weinman, The Guardian\
Date: April 9, 2016
Kitty Genovese: Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Genovese Family/Five More Minutes Productions.
The question of why bystanders sometimes do not intervene in situations where they could well make a significant difference is a perplexing one. Social psychologists from Darley and Latane back in the 1960s to the present day puzzled over this question and have come up with some interesting research procedures for looking at some of the variables that might be at play. The bottom line seems to be, not so much that people don’t want to help, but rather, the people sometimes seem confused about the nature of the situations they find themselves in and about what could or should be done.
Questions for Discussion:
- Would you provide assistance to someone who needed it? Would you be inclined to do so if you thought there might be some danger to you in intervening?
- What sorts of factors and experiences and situational variables contribute to reticence bystanders towards intervening?
- What sorts of factors have experiences and situational variables might reduce people’s reticence towards intervening? Are there things that we should consider doing either at a social policy level or to individual level in relation to this question?
References (Read Further):
We are All Bystanders http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/we_are_all_bystanders