Metro

  • Written by Wayne Eastman, Professor, Department of Supply Chain Management, Rutgers University

The most powerful evidence for the prosecution at the trial of Derek Chauvin was a video showing the then-Minneapolis police officer pinning a pleading George Floyd[1] to the ground by kneeling on his neck until he grew silent and then died.

On the witness stand, the teenager who captured the incident on her smartphone, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, expressed regret[2] for not doing more on the day of the crime.

As a professor whose major field of research is the application of psychology and game theory to ethics[3], I believe that Frazier’s regret about not physically intervening illuminates two major points: First, a witness to a troubling situation who is in a group may feel a lesser sense of personal responsibility than a single individual. Second, someone in a group of people who can see one another may nonetheless feel responsible to act.

The bystander effect

The sense of diminished personal responsibility for people in a group has become known as the “bystander effect[4]” – a phenomenon first described in the wake of a celebrated, infamous case.

In a 1964 front-page story headlined[5] “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police; Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector,” The New York Times related the gruesome story of the middle-of-the-night sexual assault and murder of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old bartender, near her apartment building.

In recent years, academics[6] and The New York Times itself[7] have concluded that the report had significant errors – the number of witnesses was fewer than 37 and multiple people phoned the police.

Reflecting on the notorious case long before these errors were known, social psychologists Bibb Latane[8] and John Darley[9] wondered if it would be possible to study failure of bystanders to act in lab experiments.

In a 1970 book[10], Darley and Latane summarized that the chances of any one individual acting in a pro-social or helpful way is lower when responsibility is diffused among a number of people. Subsequent studies also confirmed[11] that individuals are more likely to act when they feel they have the sole responsibility to do so.

The bystander effect has been reformulated by game theorists as the “volunteer’s dilemma[12].” In the volunteer’s dilemma, a person, or a group of people, will avoid discomfort if any one of them takes a pro-social action with a small cost, such as performing first aid or fixing a clogged drain[13].

Any one individual acting alone has good reason to take action – but if there is a crowd of, say, 20 people, the chance that they will do nothing and let someone else volunteer goes up[14].

In the case of George Floyd, the bystander effect was complicated by the power dynamics at play. Chauvin was an armed white police officer, and Frazier and the other bystanders were unarmed civilians who were mostly Black, like George Floyd himself. Given that, it is reasonable to ask whether Frazier, if she had been the sole civilian witness, would have gone beyond recording a video to physically intervene – such as trying to pull Chauvin off Floyd.

And it is also reasonable to ask whether she or any bystander should physically intervene in a situation where doing so might be extremely risky.

What makes people act

The 'bystander effect' is real -- but research shows that when more people witness violence, it's more likely someone will step up and intervene After Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter, people gathered on the street where he killed George Floyd. Brandon Bell/Getty Images[15]

What needs to be explained in Frazier’s behavior – and that of a number of other witnesses who also recorded videos or called out to Chauvin to stop – is not why they didn’t take drastic, risky physical action, but why they did take the steps to record videos and yell for Chauvin to stop.

To explain their pro-social action, an advancing line of research on the behavior of witnesses to troubling scenes is helpful. That research suggests that having more witnesses increases rather than decreases the chance of intervention[16] and that pro-social intervention by at least some in a group is the norm.

A 2008 analysis by social psychologist Daniel Stalder[17] of previous studies found that although the bystander effect is real, larger group size increased the probability[18] that at least one person in the group would make a pro-social intervention.

More recently, a 2019 article by psychologist Richard Philpot[19] and four co-authors found that there is a greater chance that someone will act[20] when there are larger numbers of witnesses to public conflicts. They also found that intervention is the norm[21]: 90.7% of public conflicts featured one or more witnesses making a pro-social intervention, with an average of 3.8 witnesses intervening in each conflict.

Compared with earlier research, their study is particularly persuasive, as it relied not on lab studies, but on examining surveillance camera footage of actual public conflicts between civilians (not between police and civilians) taking place in crowded urban street settings. The research was conducted in three countries – South Africa, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom[22].

[Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter[23].]

As Philpot and his co-authors put it[24], in a line that presages what Frazier and several others near her did: “We found that in nine-out-of-10 conflicts, at least one person – but typically several – did something to help.”

In trying to understand bystander ethics, the troubling phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility remains relevant. But it is also important to understand the more positive finding that pro-social intervention like Frazier’s by one or more people in groups who witness public conflicts is common.

References

  1. ^ a video showing the then-Minneapolis police officer pinning a pleading George Floyd (www.youtube.com)
  2. ^ expressed regret (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the application of psychology and game theory to ethics (www.business.rutgers.edu)
  4. ^ bystander effect (web.archive.org)
  5. ^ 1964 front-page story headlined (www.nytimes.com)
  6. ^ academics (doi.org)
  7. ^ The New York Times itself (www.nytimes.com)
  8. ^ Bibb Latane (latane.socialpsychology.org)
  9. ^ John Darley (www.princeton.edu)
  10. ^ In a 1970 book (books.google.com)
  11. ^ also confirmed (doi.apa.org)
  12. ^ volunteer’s dilemma (doi.org)
  13. ^ performing first aid or fixing a clogged drain (www.psychologytoday.com)
  14. ^ the chance that they will do nothing and let someone else volunteer goes up (doi.org)
  15. ^ Brandon Bell/Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com)
  16. ^ increases rather than decreases the chance of intervention (doi.org)
  17. ^ Daniel Stalder (stalder.socialpsychology.org)
  18. ^ increased the probability (doi.org)
  19. ^ Richard Philpot (www.lancaster.ac.uk)
  20. ^ there is a greater chance that someone will act (doi.org)
  21. ^ that intervention is the norm (doi.org)
  22. ^ South Africa, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (doi.org)
  23. ^ Sign up for our weekly newsletter (theconversation.com)
  24. ^ As Philpot and his co-authors put it (doi.org)

Authors: Wayne Eastman, Professor, Department of Supply Chain Management, Rutgers University

Read more https://theconversation.com/the-bystander-effect-is-real-but-research-shows-that-when-more-people-witness-violence-its-more-likely-someone-will-step-up-and-intervene-159674

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

My Musical Journey – Zarbo

People call me Zarbo. I call myself an artist/producer currently focused on creating catchy electronic dance music and exploring new genres that didn’t exist at the beginning of my musical career in the ‘70’s.  I am the original founding member, fr...

Alex Zarbo - avatar Alex Zarbo

News Company asked some Music Industry “Insiders” their thoughts on the current state and future of “Real Music”

To get a feel for the current state of the music industry, NewsCo asked some insiders to share their thoughts. Here is what they had to say. Real Music, to me, means music created by real instruments where you can hear the bow go across the fiddle o...

NewsCo - avatar NewsCo

Navigating the Gender Gap, Part 2 For Women: How to Work with Men in Music

After comparing notes with some of my female music friends, I’ve come up with some pointers for women about working with male colleagues. As I mentioned in my previous article, “How to Work with Women in Music,” these guidelines are based on per...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

The Making Of “ Birkenhead Drill”

The process of self producing a full length album in the middle of a pandemic has been an unending lesson in humility, but it’s also affirmed our love of music and more importantly the music we make together. The journey of Birkenhead Drill taught ...

The Jones Title - avatar The Jones Title

A Healing Power of Rap and Rock

What do Jay-Z, Rick Ruben, Neil Diamond, Snoop Dogg, Chago G. Williams, and Toto’s Steve Lukather have in common?  They can be combined into Six Degrees of Inclusion (not separation per-se).   They all have millions of fans and they have all hugely...

Rebecca DGD - avatar Rebecca DGD

Gold selling and Platinum Award Winning Recording Artist Ny'a, giving back to her community

Gold selling and Platinum Award Winning Recording Artist Ny'a, will be Live in concert on Sessions Livestream, Saturday April 24th at 7:00pm EST. Tickets are $5 dollars, with a donation going to Rahway Food For Friends. Ny'a believe in giving back ...

NewsCo - avatar NewsCo

Metropolitan Business News

4 Creative suggestions for your first business card

Almost all businesses nowadays have a business card. Business cards are important to easily showcase your brand, yourself, and your business. However, not all business cards are made the same. Som...

NewsCo - avatar NewsCo

WHEN WORLDWIDE BUSINESS BUILDING POWERHOUSE ASHLEY ANN SPEAKS, LIVES CHANGE

Ask any of her thousands of global followers - especially the 11,000-plus who’ve learned to monetize their social media, and the 700-plus who’ve created six figure incomes – and they’ll be happy to ...

NewsCo - avatar NewsCo

Why Creativity Is So Important In Digital Marketing

The Role of Creativity in Digital Marketing's Future  As marketers, one of the key tasks is to be creative and look for ways to generate demand and interest in our services and products. Creati...

NewsCo - avatar NewsCo

Essential Tips for Developing Corporate Websites

The corporate industry, just like the others, is experiencing a massive technological revolution. Organizations have changed their marketing criteria by embracing the internet. Therefore, do not be ...

News Co - avatar News Co

How to Make a Personal Injury Claim for Minors

As a parent, you want to make sure your child is always safe. But as much as you want to keep him under your watch, it is impossible to be there for him all the time. When he is out there attendin...

News Co - avatar News Co

Dress for Success - Style Essentials for Every Businessmen

Did you ever glance at a person in passing and instantly think, “Wow, they must be successful”? It seems like the rich and successful people always stand out from the crowd without even trying, ...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Writers Wanted


News Co Media

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion