The bystander effect is a psychological occurrence in which a person or persons will be less inclined to help or attempt to help a victim if there are other people present. This phenomenon is also referred to as bystander apathy. The bystander effect has been highly studied for its sociological implications.
This phenomenon was first studied in the late 1960s after the murder of Kitty Genovese. In this crime, the victim was murdered in broad daylight with scores of witnesses. However, no one attempted to intervene or help the victim.
Researchers determined a number of things about the bystander effect.
- The higher the number of individuals present at the scene of the crime, the less likely they will be to offer help.
- There is a range of psychological factors that influence people's behavior in these situations. One of these is diffusion of responsibility, in which people feel less responsible when others are present.This is because they will observe the actions of others, to see if they deem it necessary to intervene.
- When more people are present, individuals are less likely to notice, or take longer to notice emergency events, perhaps due to the fact that in Western culture it is considered rude to look around.
These factors explain the social influences on the bystander effect.