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What is the Bystander Effect and how can we counteract it?

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If you saw someone in need of help, you would step forward to help the person in trouble, right? However, psychologists believe that whether you help is influenced by the number of witnesses present.

Formally defined, the Bystander Effect is a phenomenon where a bystander is less likely to help in an emergency if there are other onlookers present.

Reasons for the Bystander Effect

Kitty Genovese. The Kitty Genovese murder in Queens, New York, in 1964 is one of the most famous murder cases to come out of New York City and into the national spotlight.

Kitty Genovese

What propelled it wasn’t the crime or the investigation, but the press coverage that alleged the murder had many witnesses who refused to come to the Kitty Genovese’s defense. This has been disproved over time, but not before it became part of the accepted lore of the crime. Kitty Genovese was returning from work home at around 2:30 a.m. on March 13, 1964, when she was approached by a man with a knife. Genovese ran toward her apartment building front door, and the man grabbed her and stabbed her while she screamed. A neighbor, Robert Mozer, yelled out his window, “Let that girl alone!” Genovese, seriously injured, crawled to the rear of her apartment building, out of the view of any possible witnesses.

She was found by neighbor Sophia Farrar, who screamed for someone to call the police. Kitty Genovese. Journal Article - The Kitty Genovese Murder. The Kitty Genovese Case. The Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan Study. What the study entails and the results: 5 steps. Teaching bystanders to intervene. Solutions. Bystander effect: Training in skills makes people more willing to help, Letters in Print News. How to be kinder to strangers in Singapore, Opinion News. The Charities Aid Foundation recently released the World Giving Index 2017, which provides insight into the scope and nature of giving around the world. Based on data collected from the Gallup World Poll, the index, which polled 1,000 individuals in each representative country, revealed two surprising facts.

Myanmar, Indonesia and Kenya turned out to be among the most charitable countries, even though they have a huge number of their populations living below the poverty line. Being poor does not stop one from being generous. Wealthy countries such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Arab Emirates also feature in the top 10. Myanmar, the top country for four years in a row, has a poor human rights record, in part because of its treatment of the Rohingya Muslims.

Singapore, ranked 30, is behind Indonesia (2), Myanmar (1) and Thailand (15), but streets ahead of Cambodia (134), Vietnam (116) and the Philippines (54) in Asean. Changing our mindset. Bystander Effect in School Bullying. Bystander Effect in Workplaces. The bystander effect refers to an element of social psychology where individuals are less likely to help those in distress or address an issue when other people are present or aware of the same situation.

Bystander Effect in Workplaces

Studies have found that the greater the number of people or witnesses gather, the less likely bystanders will react. According to John M.Darley and Bibb Latane who studied and popularised the term, the main reason for this phenomenon is due to the diffusion of responsibility. When more people are present and aware of an issue, the less likely they are to assist or resolve it. People generally tend to assume that other bystanders will respond to the situation, thus believing that their own assistance in unnecessary.

One might not realise this, but the bystander effect often occurs on a daily basis in the office space. As such, it goes without saying that the bystander effect can be a harmful factor that reduces the overall performance and productivity of a business. How the bystander effect can explain inaction towards global warming. Not too long ago, I was preparing a lecture about group dynamics for my students at Delft University of Technology.

How the bystander effect can explain inaction towards global warming

One of the dynamics I wanted to introduce was the bystander effect. The bystander effect refers to the phenomenon that an individual’s likelihood of offering help in a critical situation decreases when passive bystanders are present (e.g., Darley & Latané, 1968). The murder case of Kitty Genovese is considered as the iconic real-life example of the bystander effect.

Psychology textbooks all over the world describe how in 1964 a young woman was raped and murdered in New York while dozens of neighbours looked on but did not come into action to help her (e.g., Manning, Levine, & Collins, 2007). The New York Times reported on their front-page as follows: “For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens. First, diffusion of responsibility.