Passive Social Influence and the Bystander Effect.

Essay by jdmUniversity, Bachelor'sA, October 2003

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A fascinating dimension of the bystander effect is the diffusion of responsibility. The general hypothesis that has been tested is: As the number of bystanders increases, it is less likely that any one onlooker will help (Darley and Latane, 1968). Social influence adds to this idea. Passive social influence from bystanders acts on the diffusion of responsibility and maximizes the bystander effect. Although pro-social behavior can be learned, because of social restraint exhibition of pro-social behavior in public is unlikely. Therefore, in emergencies, inert bystander behavior is often replicated and exhibited.

In the 1968, study, "Bystander Intervention in Emergencies: Diffusion of Responsibility" John M. Darley and Bibb Latane (1968) tested their hypothesis: "The more bystanders to an emergency, the less likely or more slowly any one bystander will intervene." (Darley and Latane, 1968). Seventy-two university undergraduate participants were exposed to an opportunity in which they could either help or fail to help a perceived seizure victim.

The information given to the participant was limited to the number of other bystanders able to hear the seizure. There was no personal communication between the participant and the other bystanders hence, no opportunity for the participant to know if or how anyone else was responding to the emergency. The independent variable was the perceived number of other people to have heard the emergency. There were three groups: Group one had participant and victim; group two had participant, victim, and one confederate; group three had participant, victim, and four confederates. The dependent variable in this study was the time to respond. The results of this experiment supported the hypothesis; specifically, that group size is positively correlated to the response time of helping behavior (Darley and Latane, 1968). Darley and Latane perceived that those who were alone with the victim felt they had no choice...