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Problems of the Bystander Effect

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It was chilly dawn on March 13th, 1964 that 28-year-old bar manager Catherine Kitty Genovese was walking home. While she was walking towards her house, a 29-year-old machine operator came out and stabbed her twice in the back. Catherine was frightened and desperately screamed for help. There were 38 citizens who watched the killer stabbing the woman, but no one called the police as they did not want to be involved in the situation. As a result, Catherine died while her urgent cries were unanswered by 38 witnesses (Martin Gansberg, 1964). After this tragedy, psychologists named the situation in which people do not offer any help to a victim when other individuals are around them as the Genovese syndrome (Meyers, 2010). The bystander effect, which is another name of the Genovese syndrome, emerged as a hot potato in several fields of study such as psychology, sociology, and ethics since it became much more rampant in modern society with the spread of the egoism. Some bystanders rationalize their decisions according to their comparison between the values of their own safety and others’. However, the bystander effect is an undesirable phenomenon as it degrades the moral level of overall society, destroys the system of social trust, and has negative influences on various social fields.
First of all, the bystander effect corrupts the moral level of the whole society. Moral levels of the society are determined by two main factors, which are moral conscience and moral consciousness. Moral conscience is an inborn faculty that assists in distinguishing right from wrong (May, 1983). This inner voice often makes a person feel guilty when he/she commits actions that go against moral values and leads the person to behave morally. For instance, p...

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...rated. Since bystander effect is a complicated problem related to various fields such as psychology, sociology, and ethics, integrated efforts from multilateral aspects are required. While the bystander effect still exists in the society, there is always a certainty for another tragedy of Catherine Kitty Genovese to happen. Without individual and social effort to effectively eradicate the bystander effect, everyone, including you, may fall to be the next victim.

Works Cited

Martin G. (1964, March 27). Thirty-eight who saw murder didn't call the police. New York Times.
Meyers, D. G. (2010). Social psychology (10th Ed). New York: McGraw- Hill.
May, L. (1983). On conscience. American Philosophical Quarterly, 20: 57-67.
Namee, Abigail, and Mia M. School-wide intervention in the childhood bullying triangle. Taylor & Francis Online. (2012, July 25): 370-378. PDF file.
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