The Bystander Effect

The bystander effect is a phenomenon involving an individual’s failure to act due to the presence of other individuals. This psychological concept gained traction following the tragic death of Kitty Genovese

The heinous crime occurred outside Genovese’s New York City apartment in 1964. Her piercing screams alerted several individuals to the lurid event occurring around them. Still, they failed to intervene. It was not apathy or lack of concern that sparked their inaction. Though they may have had their best interest in mind, their inactivity did not stem from self-preservation. Instead, the presence of other individuals is to blame for their negligence. These individuals transferred responsibility to other people, rather than claiming it for themselves. They were under the notion that somebody would call the police or intervene in some way; therefore, the individual himself did not have to act. Since everybody shared that opinion, no action was taken. Moreover, social influences also affected their behaviors. It is human nature to imitate the behaviors of others. From an evolutionary perspective, such mirroring can be vital for survival. In this instance, however, it led to the death of an individual. Unfortunately, the bystander effect continues to occur every single day. Indeed, it extends to other emergencies.

In severe cases, an individual that is hurt in an accident is no longer capable of helping himself or herself. From a humanitarian perspective, it is the social responsibility of an individual to intervene in this emergency whether or not he or she witnessed the accident. Sadly, this is not always the case due to the bystander effect. Luckily, there are several ways to overcome this effect. The most important thing an individual can do is to claim rather than transfer responsibility. The individual can offer his or her assistance rather than assuming others will take action.


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