Bibb Latane and John
- By 1980, Latane and Darley
had conducted nearly 50 experiments on the bystander effect.
- They found that the single
factor that most greatly influenced the way a person reacts in an emergency
situation is the presence of others.
- 90% (of 6,000 people) were
more likely to act when they were alone.
- During 1,497 elevator rides,
Latane, James Dabbs, and 145 confederates dropped pencils or coins. 40% of the time, they were helped when the
bystander was alone. They were helped
less than 20% of the time when there were six passengers on the elevator.
- They concluded that the more
bystanders there are, the less likely it is that someone will notice the
incident, interpret it as a problem/emergency, or assume responsibility for
Would You Notice?
- Latane And Darley designed a
study in 1968 to test this. A man was
left in a room to fill out a questionnaire, either alone or with two
strangers. The subject was observed through
a one-way mirror. Smoke was piped into
- When the men were alone,
they noticed the smoke almost immediately, usually in less than five
seconds. Subjects in groups took twenty
seconds to notice.
- People are more likely to
keep to themselves when in a group, which can be a distraction.
Is It An Emergency?
- People look to others in
order to form their own reactions. In
the smoke study, the men tended to look around the room in order to gauge
whether the smoke was a serious situation.
- People are afraid of
embarrassing themselves in a group, so they may mistake others’ passivity for
genuine lack of concern.
Would You Act?
- When others are around, this
takes away a person’s responsibility to act.
They may assume someone else is already helping.
- An example of this is that
people are less likely to stop on the freeway for someone who is experiencing
car trouble versus stopping on an abandoned road for the same reason.
- In 1968, Latane and Darley
staged an experiment where a person was placed in a room and could hear someone
in a nearby room having a seizure and pleading for help.
- 85% of those who believed
there were no other listeners left the room to get help. Only 31% reacted when they thought four
others could also hear the pleas for help.
- Conclusion: People do not
realize why they do what they do. When
questioned, many responded that they would have reacted the same way regardless
of who was around.
There is Hope!
- Arthur Beaman and his
colleagues (1978) conducted experiments with University of Montana students,
which revealed that once people understand the bystander effect, they become
more likely to help in a group situation.