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Bystander Effect Psychological Theories Haslam I 206
Bystander effect/Psychological theories: VsLatané, VsDarley: the apparently robust five-step model (see below) fails to provide researchers with any clues about how to increase the likelihood of bystander interventions in violent emergencies:
Haslam I 205
(Latané and Darley, 1970(1)): 1) Notice that something is happening.
2) Interpret the event as an emergency.
3) Take responsibility for providing help.
4) Decide how to act.
5) Provide help.
Haslam I 206
Method/CherryVsLatané/CherryVsDarley: Frances Cherry (1995)(2) offers a fascinating analysis of the way in which the Genovese murder ((s) >Helping behavior/Darley) was translated into experimental analogues. She points out that there were a number of important features of the attack, only some of which were identified as key events worthy of experimental analysis. Cherry suggests that this gendered aspect of the event and of the violence was almost invisible to researchers at the time.We are now very familiar with the concept of domestic violence – and with concerns about male violence towards women in both public and private spaces. However, in the early 1960s, these were social concerns that had yet to be identified. In the handful of studies that do examine the role of violence and/or gender (Borofsky et al., 1971(3); Shotland and Straw, 1976(4); and more recently Fischer et al., 2006(5); Levine and Crowther, 2008)(6), a far more nuanced story emerges. For example, bystanders are more likely to intervene if they think the perpetrator and victim are strangers rather than intimates (Shotland and Straw, 1976)(4) or when they share group membership with the victim (Levine and Crowther, 2008)(6).
Haslam I 207
Levine: there are several possible narratives for the murder case, e. g. , one in which the colour of the victim and the murderers would have been mentioned or not mentioned. Accordingly, it may be the case that the limited utility of bystander research can be attributed to researcher’s failure to explore these alternative narratives. In the Genovese murder case (>Helping behavior/Darley) Rachel Manning and colleagues (2007)(7) have revisited the evidence and found that there actually were much less than 38 witnesses (as reported by Latané and Darley). At the trial, only five witnesses were called and if these, only actually saw the victim and the murderer together. There is also no evidence that witnesses watched for half an hour in awe and fascination.
Haslam I 209
Finally, there is evidence that, far from observing passively, bystanders made several attempts to intervene. ((s) Anyway the criticism was directed against the newspaper reporting, not against the researchers. Popular group psychology: Moreover, the development of thinking about bystander non-intervention added to this picture by seeming to indicate that the presence of others can also lead to behavioural ‚inhibition’. (…) groups could now be accused of producing the perfect storm of negative consequences – in simultaneously both unleashing anti-social behaviour and suppressing pro-social behaviour.
Manning et al. (2007(7) argue that this negative image of the group continues to populate the imaginations both of researchers and of students to the present day. >Bystander effect/Social identity theory.
Haslam I 213
Levine: Latané and Darley’s bystander effect appears to be one of the most robust and reliable findings in social psychology. And yet for all its robustness, it has seemed to lack any practical utility – appearing simply to point to the inevitably negative impact that groups have on individual behaviour. Indeed, in line with this perspective, Zimbardo (2004)(8) could find no place for the bystander effect in his catalogue of positive contributions that psychology has made to improving social life.

1. Latané, B. and Darley, J.M. (1970) The Unresponsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t He Help? New York: Meredith Corporation.
2. Cherry, F. (1995) The ‘Stubborn Particulars’ of Social Psychology. London: Routledge.
3. Borofsky, G.L., Stollak, G.E. and Messe, L.A. (1971) ‘Sex differences in bystander reactions to physical assault’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7: 313–18.
4. Shotland, R.L. and Straw, M.G. (1976) ‘Bystander response to an assault: When a man attacks a woman’, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 101: 510-27.
5. Fischer, P., Greitemeyer, T., Pollozek, F. and Frey, D. (2006) ‘The unresponsive bystander: Are bystanders more responsive in dangerous emergencies?’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 36: 267–78.
6. Levine, M. and Crowther, S. (2008) ‘The responsive bystander: How social group membership and group size can encourage as well as inhibit bystander intervention’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95: 1429–39.
7. Manning, R., Levine, M. and Collins, A. (2007) ‘The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses’, American Psychologist, 62: 555–62.
8. Zimbardo, P.G. (2004) ‘Does psychology make a significant difference in our lives?’, American Psychologist, 59: 339–51.



Mark Levine, „ Helping in Emergencies. Revisiting Latané and Darley’s bystander studies“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic studies. London: Sage Publications


Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017
Decision-making Processes Latané Haslam I 205
Decision making process/helping behavior/psychology of decision making/Darley/Latané: in the results of their bystander studies (>Experiment/Darley/Latané; Darley and Latané, 1968(1)) they identified 5 steps of decision making associated with emergency situation (Latané and Darley, 1070(2)): 1) Notice that something is happening.
2) Interpret the event as an emergency.
3) Take responsibility for providing help.
4) Decide how to act.
5) Provide help.
[The authors] argued that failure to intervene in an emergency in the presence of others could result from diffusion of responsibility and pluralistic ignorance (>Terminology/Darle/Latané) at different stages of this sequence. For example, pluralistic ignorance might reduce the likelihood of interpreting an event as an emergency (Step 2) if bystanders look to others for information about how to act and assume that they are not responding because they do not see the situation as problematic. On the other hand, diffusion of responsibility might disrupt intervention at the point of taking responsibility (Step 3) if a person is surrounded by other bystanders who could also take responsibility for action (but do not). VsLatané, VsDarley: >Bystander effect/Psychological theories.



1. Darley, J. and Latané, B. (1968) ‘Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10: 215-21.
2. Latané, B. and Darley, J.M. (1970) The Unresponsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t He Help? New York: Meredith Corporation.

Social Psychology: Revisiting the Classic Studies (S.216). SAGE Publications. Kindle-Version.


Mark Levine, „ Helping in Emergencies. Revisiting Latané and Darley’s bystander studies“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic studies. London: Sage Publications


Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017
Decision-making Processes Psychology of Decision-Making Haslam I 205
Decision making process/helping behavior/psychology of decision making/Darley/Latané: in the results of their bystander studies (>Experiment/Darley/Latané; Darley and Latané, 1968(1)) they identified 5 steps of decision making associated with emergency situation (Latané and Darley, 1070(2)): 1) Notice that something is happening.
2) Interpret the event as an emergency.
3) Take responsibility for providing help.
4) Decide how to act.
5) Provide help.
[The authors] argued that failure to intervene in an emergency in the presence of others could result from diffusion of responsibility and pluralistic ignorance (>Terminology/Darle/Latané) at different stages of this sequence. For example, pluralistic ignorance might reduce the likelihood of interpreting an event as an emergency (Step 2) if bystanders look to others for information about how to act and assume that they are not responding because they do not see the situation as problematic. On the other hand, diffusion of responsibility might disrupt intervention at the point of taking responsibility (Step 3) if a person is surrounded by other bystanders who could also take responsibility for action (but do not). VsLatané, VsDarley: >Bystander effect/Psychological theories.



1. Darley, J. and Latané, B. (1968) ‘Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10: 215-21.
2. Latané, B. and Darley, J.M. (1970) The Unresponsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t He Help? New York: Meredith Corporation.

Social Psychology: Revisiting the Classic Studies (S.216). SAGE Publications. Kindle-Version.


Mark Levine, „ Helping in Emergencies. Revisiting Latané and Darley’s bystander studies“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic studies. London: Sage Publications


Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017