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The bystander effect is a phenomenon which is rooted to human psychology. This strange psychological phenomenon came into light after the controversial murder case of Kitty Genovese and two scientists John Darley and Bibb Latane gave scientific theories through experiments.

bystander effect

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The greater part of the experiments involved in how people handled the situation individually and also within a crowd. From the experiments a greater aspect of the human behaviour among the people could be understood and most importantly in the presence of his fellow beings.

The Bystander Effect

Kitty murder case was widely discussed in the 60’s for being one of the most brutal murder and also because of its number of witnesses. More than 30 people witnessed the cold blooded murder and aids came only after 30 minutes of the event. The eyewitnesses didn’t bother as they thought it as a usual fight between the lovers even after hearing her pleading.

This behaviour is experimentally proved by John Darley and Bibb Latane. This bystander effect phenomenon explains how people react during an emergency or a situation.

People are more likely to take actions in the presence of a few than being in a large group. In the latter state, they are more likely to take more time to do any action while confronting an emergency. This behaviour can be explained by perceiving two features of this effect.

  1. The sense of responsibility that the person experience individually or within a group. Individually, when he feels he could only control the situation, the sense of responsibility persuades him for quick action. Where as in a group the sense of responsibility diffuses among the people causing a delay in actions.
  2. People tend to behave in socially accepted ways especially in public causing unwillingness to take quick actions. They tend to wait for the other people to react before doing anything. People are afraid to take an action fearing its consequence most of the time.


One of the best examples of bystander effects can be witnessed in a public area like a bus stop or a super market. People are less likely to act to any situation which occurs and being in a crowd makes everyone to stand back and wait till someone initiates the task.

Accidents happening in a crowded junction can be more fatal than happening in a less crowded highway. This is due to bystander effect. The effect can be explained effectively through Darley and Latane’s experiment.

They conducted the experiments using three participants in two rooms where one participant was placed in a room and the others together in a separate room.  Smoke was passed into the room to create a situation. The person who was alone acted quickly than the others. People act differently alone or in the presence of others.

Due to the sense of responsibility and alertness that experience when people are alone and the same situation influence them to take the situation in their own hands.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Khaled Alyami January 3, 2020, 5:15 am

    Thank for this interesting theory.

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