Posted by & filed under Aggression, Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: Do people who witness acts of aggression or violence against other in their town or cities typically intervene to stop or diffuse the situation? When attacks against Indigenous, Asian, or other identifiable member of minority groups occur as they have recently, how likely is it that you, when hearing of the incidents, wondered why no one intervened? If no one else was present that is one thing but what about when there are others around? If you have taken an introductory psychology course that included a section on social psychology, you have likely heard about the case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered while, it is often told, 38 people heard the attack and did nothing. There has been a great deal of research done looking at this question and it is a good time to take stock of what reality actually involves in this area. So, start with what you think. DO bystanders typically intervene in situations where one person id attacking another or not, and if not why not? Once you have your hypotheses sorted out read the article linked below to see what psychological research, both historical and recent, have to say regarding this matter.

Source: Would You Jump In to Stop an Assault? Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times.

Date: April 3, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, bystanders DO rather consistently intervene when one person is being attacked or when a fight is going on. As well, the main reasons for not intervening are typically related to really not knowing what to do or how to do so relatively safely. Further, re-analysis of the Kitty Genovese case accounts suggest that it was improperly reported and not nearly as clear a case of bystander indifference as it has routinely been presented as being. It is very encouraging to see that research is indicating that things are not as bad as we often think and that there are training programs that can help people to understand how to intervene safely and effectively.  Now we need to get THAT word out a far as the older negative accounts got!

Questions for Discussion:  

  1. What is over and understated in most accounts of circumstances surrounding the Kitty Genovese case?
  2. What effect does the presence of more people have on the likelihood that someone will intervene in a violent altercation?
  3. What step could help further reduce the number of situations where bystanders do not intervene and what could increase safety and efficacy for those that do intervene?

References (Read Further):

Rasenberger, Jim (2004) Kitty, 40 Years Later, The New York Times Link

Rosenthal, A. M. (2015). Thirty-eight witnesses: The Kitty Genovese case. Open Road Media.

Manning, R., Levine, M., & Collins, A. (2007). The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses. American Psychologist, 62(6), 555. Link

Kassin, S. M. (2017). The killing of Kitty Genovese: what else does this case tell us?. Perspectives on psychological science, 12(3), 374-381. Link

Griggs, R. A. (2015). The Kitty Genovese story in introductory psychology textbooks: Fifty years later. Teaching of Psychology, 42(2), 149-152. Link

Philpot, R., Liebst, L. S., Levine, M., Bernasco, W., & Lindegaard, M. R. (2020). Would I be helped? Cross-national CCTV footage shows that intervention is the norm in public conflicts. American Psychologist, 75(1), 66. Link

Mentors in Violence Prevention Link

Berkowitz, A. D. (2009). Response ability: A complete guide to bystander intervention. Beck & Company.

Darley, J. M., & Latané, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: diffusion of responsibility. Journal of personality and social psychology, 8(4p1), 377. Link

DiFranzo, D., Taylor, S. H., Kazerooni, F., Wherry, O. D., & Bazarova, N. N. (2018, April). Upstanding by design: Bystander intervention in cyberbullying. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1-12). Link

Jenkins, L. N., & Nickerson, A. B. (2019). Bystander intervention in bullying: Role of social skills and gender. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 39(2), 141-166. Link

Thornberg, R., Landgren, L., & Wiman, E. (2018). ‘It Depends’: A qualitative study on how adolescent students explain bystander intervention and non-intervention in bullying situations. School psychology international, 39(4), 400-415. Link


One Response to “No Bystander Intervention? Think Again!”


    Generally I don’t read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.

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