It’s a question that has puzzled people for centuries: Why don’t people help in a crisis? Why do we sometimes stand by and watch while others are in need, instead of offering a helping hand?
John Darley, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, has studied this phenomenon extensively. In 1968, he and his colleague, Daniel Batson, conducted a now-famous experiment in which they asked seminary students to prepare a sermon. Half of the students were told to give their sermon right away, while the other half were told to wait for another day.
As the students left the room, they passed by a person who was slumped over and coughing uncontrollably. The researchers wanted to see if the students would stop to help the person in need.
What they found was that the students who were in a hurry were much less likely to stop and help than those who weren’t in a hurry. In fact, only 10 percent of the students who were in a hurry stopped to help, compared to 63 percent of the students who weren’t in a hurry.
This experiment highlights an important point: People are often more likely to help others when they’re not in a rush. Why is this?
One possibility is that people who are in a hurry are so focused on their own goals that they don’t have the time or energy to focus on someone else’s needs. Another possibility is that people who are rushed feel less capable of helping, because they don’t have the time to think about what to do or how to do it.
Either way, this experiment shows that people are less likely to help in a crisis if they’re feeling rushed.
This phenomenon was tragically illustrated in 1964, when Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York City. Despite the fact that multiple people witnessed the attack, no one called for help until it was too late.
It’s possible that the bystanders didn’t want to get involved. But it’s also possible that they were so focused on their own lives and goals that they didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.
Either way, this event highlights an important point: People are often reluctant to help in a crisis, even when they’re witnesses to it. Why is this?
There are a number of possible explanations. One is that people are afraid of getting involved. Another is that they don’t want to take responsibility for someone else’s safety.
But the most likely explanation is that people simply don’t realize how serious the situation is until it’s too late. By the time they realize what’s happening, it’s often too late to do anything about it.
“Help, help! I’m going to die!” Those were Kitty Genovese’s last words before she was murdered. According to the essay “Why Don’t People Help in a Crisis?” by John Darley and Bibb Latane, all witnesses of an event are apathetic. They state that, according to their research, all bystanders in a crisis are uninterested. The infamous murder of Kitty Genovese is one such example, where thirty-eight eyewitnesses looked at the area more than once and did nothing about it.
Why is it that we, as humans, do not help when others are in need? There are many reasons but the three main reasons are diffusion of responsibility, pluralistic ignorance, and social loafing.
The first reason people don’t help during a crisis is what is called diffusion of responsibility. This means that when there are other people around us, we think someone else will help so we don’t have to. For example, Kitty Genovese had cried out for help numerous times and yet no one did anything because they all thought someone else would.
Another example could be if you see a homeless person on the street, you may not give them money because you think someone else will. The second reason is pluralistic ignorance. This is when people think that because no one else is helping, they must not think it’s a big deal or there must not be a problem at all.
For example, if you see a group of people standing around a person who is clearly injured, you may not help because you think the others know what they’re doing and have it under control. The final reason is social loafing. This is when people don’t help because they don’t want to stand out from the crowd or they don’t want to do anything that would make them look bad. For example, if you see a person being bullied, you may not help because you don’t want to get involved.
“They continued to stare out their windows, caught, engrossed, perplexed, distressed but unable to look away; unwilling to act but unable to turn away,” Darley and Latane conclude. Even though individuals may disagree and claim that they would have done something if they had been a witness, they can’t deny the truth of what Darley and Latane said about bystanders. We are naturally inclined to follow the crowd, according To Darley and Latane. The Kitty Genovese case showcased the involvement of 38 witnesses.
Why didn’t anyone help? Why didn’t anyone call the police? It all has to do with the bystander effect. The Kitty Genovese case is a perfect example of the bystander effect in action.
The Kitty Genovese case occurred in 1964 in New York City. Kitty Genovese was a young woman who was stabbed to death in front of her apartment building while thirty-eight of her neighbors watched and did nothing to help her. The murderreceived national attention and sparked a lot of research on bystanders and why they don’t tend to help in a crisis situation. John Darley and Bibb Latane were two social psychologists who conducted research on the bystander effect. Their research found that there are three main factors that affect whether or not someone will help in a crisis situation:
1. The number of people present – The more people present, the less likely it is that anyone will help. This is because each person assumes that someone else will help or that the situation is not really an emergency.
2. The level of anonymity – People are less likely to help if they are anonymous and there is no personal connection to the victim.
3. The level of personal responsibility – People are less likely to help if they feel like they are not personally responsible for the victim.
The Kitty Genovese case demonstrates all three of these factors. There were thirty-eight witnesses, so each person probably assumed that someone else would help. The witnesses were also anonymous; they did not know Kitty Genovese and she was not their responsibility. Finally, the witnesses were probably not feeling very personal responsibility because the murder occurred in the middle of the night and they were not expecting it to happen.
The bystander effect is a real phenomenon that can explain why people don’t tend to help in a crisis situation. However, it is important to remember that there are always exceptions to the rule. There are some people who will help even if there are other people present or if they don’t know the victim. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to make a difference.