Critically evaluate the claim that the bystander effect is caused by diffusion of responsibility.
The bystander effect is a major topic of discussion in psychology. Various explanations for this social phenomenon have been put forward by psychologists, all of which should be evaluated to come to an erudite understanding. This essay will therefore consider, discuss, develop and evaluate these differing arguments. All supporting and discrediting evidence will be assessed, before concluding whether the bystander effect is caused by diffusion of responsibility.
When psychologists discuss 'the bystander effect', they are referring to the issue of passers-by being unwilling to help another person who seems to be in need. The likelihood of an individual taking action to help is affected by differing circumstances. For example the ambiguity of the situation, whether there are other individuals present and if so, what actions these individuals take.
The Kitty Genovese case demonstrates the bystander effect and influenced many psychologists to carry out more research in this area. Kitty Genovese was the victim of a fatal attack in New York in 1964. This attack was prolonged and witnessed by 38 people. However, none of these individuals came to her aid. Rosenthal (1964) reported none of these witnesses even contacted the police. A more recent example of a similar case was reported in Minesota, America. A security video showed a woman being attacked in an apartment hallway. Many people witnessed the appalling attack, but chose not to act. Police spokesman, Tom Walsh spoke of the 'shocking' behaviour of the bystanders. He reported '"(The video) shows one person looking out of her door probably three times.” He goes on to say "It shows another person walking up, observing what's going on, then turning and putting up the hood of his sweatshirt.” Again this highlights the question of why this inaction?
The concept of diffusion of responsibility has been put...