Bystander Apathy

Via Jonathan Turley,

“In the video linked below, Angel Torres, 78, is struck by two cars in the streets of Hartford, Connecticut and left in the street. The video shows a dozen cars passed by without stopping and pedestrians doing nothing to help Torres who is now paralyzed from the neck down. No one even bothered to call 9-11 as they walked away.”

Surveillance video here (graphic though).

But considering what we know about human behavior, it is actually the normal reaction (normal as in the statistical norm). Most of us can, of course remember Kitty Genovese , another case of bystander apathy , defined as such in PsyBlog:

“In social psychology this is the surprising finding that the mere presence of other people inhibits our own helping behaviours in an emergency.”

And the more people present, the lower the probability that anyone will help, because then, the burden of helping is diluted more widely. If there is only you at the scene of an emergency, the responsibility is exclusively yours. As you add more people, that 100% responsibility to help becomes divided among the bystanders. The lower anyone’s “share” of that burden, the lower the probability to help.

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One Response to Bystander Apathy

  1. Bystander Apathy is one of the most obvious effects that groups have on people considering themselves part of the group: individual accountability is eliminated. It is often nice to not have to carry the heaviness of being and let the whole be more than the sum of parts. However, this should not, should never replace independent individual evaluation, confirmation or rejection. So being in a group is nice, being a leader is probably even better, but the audacity of keeping your own capacity of decision making is best.