Critique the way in which social psychology has studied and theorised bystander intervention
I am from India, and I have witnessed a significant number of cases where people have just stood around accidents and none of them even cared to call an ambulance or other emergency services. This has become more and more prevalent in the last decade with people trying to capture the accident through their phones and posting the clip in social media. It seems to me that they get more credit in getting to share the clip first than be the person to help the individual that has been involved in the accident. I do remember a few years ago a famous actor whose car was involved in a crash. The story can be found here. Later in his tweet he shared how people around him where only using the phone to capture the accident and not one in the whole crowd cared to ask if he was okay or needed help. I believe this is bystander effect where though an incident is witnessed by a significant number of people but offers to support or help the person who is in need or distress.
Latane and Darley (1968) studied the behaviour of 38 witnesses who merely watched the murder of 28-year-old lady Kitty Genovese and did not come to rescue or even call to the emergency number in the early morning hours on March 13, 1964 at New York. They term this as the state of pluralistic ignorance where the all the bystanders assumed that nothing was wrong and the person in distress doesn’t need help since no one around them is concerned. However, from their later study Latane and Darley found that the chances of responding was more if the bystander was alone. I believe we cannot presume that we are turning into a self-centred society as social scientists later through staged experiments observed high levels of assistance in rural areas rather than the city either when people were in groups or as a lone witness as long as they knew it was an emergency situation (Latane & Rodin, 1969, Clark & Word, 1972, 1974). Several factors have been attributed to this state including people wanted to look graceful among strangers in cities (Cialdini, 1998).
With a hope to harness the power of the groups to intervene in an emergency and concerned with the way how Genovese’s story is negatively dominating the imagination of those who think about helping behaviour in emergencies, Manning, Levine and Collins (2007) examined Genovese’s trial, evidence and the witnesses’ deposition. They found that the three key features of the trial that there were 38 witnesses who merely watched from their windows for the duration of the attack and did not intervene the whole time) were not supported by the available evidence. Smyth (2001a, 2001b, 2004) as cited in Manning, Levine & Collins, 2007) also argues that when the other science disciplines present information as abstracted facts, psychology textbooks tend to use experiments such as Genovese’s case to demonstrate generalisations and to qualify claims by extensive...