In 1969, researchers Bibb Latane and John Darley conducted a series of experiments to determine how and when individuals decide to act upon witnessing a person in need of assistance. In these experiments, the researchers would stage an emergency situation and then measure how long it took participants to respond. Interestingly, the researchers discovered that participants were less likely to respond when they were with a group of people (Latane & Darley, 1969). By 1970, these same researchers suggested that bystanders might not respond for the following reasons (Latane & Darley, 1970):
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Diffusion of responsibility: A bystander assumes that someone else will offer assistance
A bystander might look to see if others are helping first. If the situation seems ambiguous and no one else is helping, then the bystander is likely to think that there is no reason for concern.
Bystanders might be concerned about making the wrong decision and being embarrassed or shamed as a result.
Watch the following video about bystander apathy, and discuss the following prompts:
Describe your initial reaction to the video.
What surprised you the most?
What was not surprising to you?
Are there certain factors that you believe would make an individual more or less likely to respond to a situation like this?
Research by Latane and Darley as mentioned above suggests that bystanders are more likely to help once someone has already intervened. Why do you think this might be?
Research by Milgram (1970) has also shown that a person is more likely to receive assistance from a bystander if the event takes place in a rural area in comparison to an urban environment. Why do you think this is the case?