What is the Bystander Effect?

The Bystander Effect denotes a social psychological scenario where a victim in an emergency situation is not offered help by surrounding individuals, even though they are aware that the victim needs assistance. The mere presence of other bystanders greatly reduces the likelihood of intervention.  The phenomenon occurs due to diffusion of responsibility. As the number of bystanders increases, any given bystander is less likely to interpret the incident as a problem, and less likely to assume responsibility for taking action. The Bystander Effect is also referred to as the Genovese Syndrome, in memory of Kitty Genovese, a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in 1964. Reports at the time claimed that “Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police.”

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