Bystander Behaviour Research Paper


This essay will give examples and discuss the factors which can affect bystander behaviour in various situations. Models explaining theories will be looked at along with various studies, as well as looking at the three social cognitive processes by Latane and Darley and explain how these were put together to propose a complex cognitive model. The essay will explain the Arousal cost reward model by Piliavin and Piliavin.

After the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, bystander behaviour was first looked at by Latane and Darley in 1970. Kitty was repeatedly stabbed by a stalker on three separate attacks. During the first two attempts, voices and the sight of lights going on interrupted him and frightened him off but seeing as nobody was coming to her rescue, he went back the third time which consequently led to her death. During the police investigation it emerged that 38 of her neighbours had separately witnessed the attack and yet no-one had intervened or called the police.
It was through kitty Genovese murder and early laboratory studies that led Latane and Darley to introduce the concept of unresponsive bystander and bystander apathy and according to Latane and Darley decision model, a bystander will pass through a logical series of steps before actually offering any help. Therefore a negative decision at any step will lead to non- intervention.

The three social cognitive processes towards the behaviour of bystanders by Latane and Darley that were involved in the passive behaviour of bystanders and these are, Diffusion of responsibility is where there is a tendency that the individual will assume that someone else has taken control of the situation when in fact as a result no one actually does. Audience inhibition is where an individual is concerned with what others might think of them and not want to react to what may be a false alarm as they could feel embarrassed. Pluralistic ignorance which means that an individual will observe the behaviour from other onlookers and take his cue from their behaviour before actually helping and Latane and Darley put these ideas together to form a complex model and it was suggested that there were five steps necessary in order for an individual to take positive action.

Step one is that an individual must notice that something is happening. A study by Darley and Batson (1973) is an example of this, whereby seminary students had to give a talk in a nearby building on the Good Samaritan. Each group were given different levels of urgency. Group one were told they had plenty of time to get to the other building, group two were told they had a few minutes but it is best to head over now whereas The third group was told they were already late.

In an alleyway they passed a man slumped on the ground in pain. It was unclear whether the man was ill or drunk. 70% of students who believed they were ahead of schedule stopped to help the man, 45% of people who were on time stopped to help whereas only 10% of the students who believed they were late stopped to help. However many students actually stepped over the man needing help. It is thought that the students with more time took more notice of their surroundings whereas the students who believed they were late kept their heads down and noticed hardly anything of their surroundings.

Step two of the cognitive model is do we interpret the situation as an emergency.

Step three of the model is to take responsibility for helping.

Step four refers to if a bystander decides to help and this will be influenced by how competent they feel.

Step five will be to give the help needed provided the other four steps have been gone through first.
Darley and Latane’s conclusions were expanded into a cost-reward arousal model by Piliavin et al in the early 1980’s. This model suggests that the potential rewards and costs of intervention and non-intervention are weighed up by the bystander. The cost-reward arousal model consists of two factors that are interdependent in order to explain whether or not a bystander will help.
Arousal in response to the need of others is an emotional response which is distressing to the helper, thus motivating the helper to help in reducing their own distress.
Cost-reward factor involves the bystander weighing up the situation in terms of costs and rewards to themselves. Costs and rewards may be seen in terms of those received for helping the victim , for example the amount of physical danger involved or fame and monetary rewards and as the costs for helping increase so does the probability of intervention.
In conclusion this essay has shown that the cost of helping and not helping differ according to the type of help that is required, which could include personality of the bystander, the gender of either, and furthermore the bystander – victim relationship. Helping can be called altruism but only if the motive is to benefit the victim which is empathic concern. All human beings are capable of altruistic acts, and according to universal egoism, helping is always motivated by personal distress. Humans are capable of biological altruism whereby it is triggered within emergency situations, especially where their friends or relatives are concerned.

Related Essays Psychology