Implications Of The Bystander Theory

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The bystander effect is a key issue of interest in social psychology. A variety of theories have been suggested by psychologists in an attempt to explain this social phenomenon which describes cases where the presence of others inhibits individuals helping a victim. One such theory suggested is the diffusion of responsibility (Latané & Darley, 1968). This essay will explain, assess and evaluate supporting and disputing evidence before concluding whether the bystander effect is caused by the diffusion of responsibility.
The term ‘bystander effect’ was coined after the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964. She was murdered in the early hours of the morning in a respectable New York neighbourhood. Thirty-eight neighbours reported being able to hear
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Whilst the participants were completing a questionnaire, smoke began to appear from a wall vent and continued to do so for six minutes when the room was entirely full of smoke. Participants who were completing the questionnaire alone were more likely to report the smoke than participants who were in a room with two confederates who completely ignored the smoke. Latané and Darley suggested this was due to the ‘diffusion of responsibility’ which is the witness’ assumption that others will take responsibility of a situation, which can ultimately lead to no one taking action. They also suggested a lone individual witnessing an emergency will feel the guilt more directly than those in a group, and so will be more likely to help and also that helping behaviour will be negatively correlated with the number of bystanders as a consequence of the diffusion of responsibility (Latané and Darley,…show more content…
This could affect the external validity of the results. To assume the results are still valid we need to compare the studies’ results to more recent studies such as Garcia, Weaver, Moskowitz & Darley (2002) in which the effect of imagined bystanders on charitable donations was investigated. The results found supported the diffusion of responsibility accounts suggested by Latané and Darley (1970) and also supported the idea that bystanders do not need to actually be present to affect helping behaviour as suggested by Latané and Darley (1968). As the results found in Garcia et al (2002) are consistent with Latané and Darley (1970) it can be assumed the results are externally valid and do apply to modern day

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