Bystander Intervention / Altruism

Topic: Altruism / Bystander Intervention

Posted by: Patrick & Il-jee

Key Terms:

  • altruism: unselfish regard for the welfare of others
  • bystander effect: the tendency for any given bystander to be less likely to give aid if other bystanders are present.



Social psychologists began the study on altruism after an act of sexual violence on March 13, 1964 in Queens, New York. Kitty Genovese, as she lay dying outside her apartment at 3:30 AM, screamed for help into the early morning while the attacker stabbed and raped her several times. The attacker finally fled at 3:50 AM when 38 of her neighbors called the police for help.

Bystander Intervention:

Queens community was outraged by the supposed bystanders' 'apathy' and 'indifference' to the same incident. How in the world could a human being allow such an event to take place? Darley and Latane stated that we help only when we:
1) Notice an incident
2) Interpret incident as emergency
3) Assume responsibility
Hundreds of experiments conducted by many psychologist including Darley and Latane proved that percentage of attempting to help was inversely related to number of others presumed available to help.(check line graph below) Observations by altruism researched found that we are likely to help when;
  • we have observed someone else being helpful
  • we are not in hurry
  • victim appears to need and deserve help
  • victim is in someway similar to us
  • we are in a small town or rural area
  • we are feeling guilty
  • we are focused on others and not preoccupied
  • we are in good mood
  • we are happy people

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Related Videos and Pictures:

altruism peanuts"Paradox of Altruism"
bystander effect

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