Media Violence and Desensitization Assignment | Get Homework Help


Assignment: Media Violence and Desensitization (Continued From Week 9) Desensitization is a well-documented consequence of years-long exposure to media violence. From early exposure, children—especially boys—learn that aggression pays off (Bushman, Gollwitzer, & Cruz, 2015). Aggression—especially if it means you “win” the game, “defeat” the adversary, or “force” a resolution to a conflict—earns the aggressor attention, praise, respect, reverence, adoration, money, and power. These are the rewards that often accompany aggression portrayed by the film industry (e.g., Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, A Good Day to Die Hard), making it more likely that the aggressive behavior will persist. The number of films in this series is evidence of their popularity. From classical conditioning theory, we learn that bad behavior paired with rewards can make the bad behavior desirable; moreover, the prevalence of violence in the media, over time, normalizes it. Studies show that when exposed to violent films daily over a week’s time, participants rate films as less violent with each film viewed (Dexter, Penrod, Linz, & Saunders, 2006). This is evidence of desensitization. Desensitized people tend not to acknowledge the effects of media violence, because they don’t see that there’s a problem. However, a growing body of research finds that desensitized individuals downplay or tend not to acknowledge egregious harm done to others; because a steady diet of violent media normalizes violent behavior, injury suffered by people in real life does not seem like cause for concern (Vossen, Piotrowski, & Valkenburg, 2016). That’s the nature of desensitization, and that is indeed a problem. Convinced there is no harm in violent media consumption—that their behavioral tendencies will not have been influenced by it—desensitized consumers probably would not be interested in changing their media viewing habits (Funk, Baldacci, Pasold, & Baumgardner, 2004). For this Assignment, you will examine the concept of desensitization, methods used to increase the desirability of violence, and ways for parents to reduce aggression exhibited by their children. References: Bushman, B. J., Gollwitzer, M., & Cruz, C. (2015). There is broad consensus: Media researchers agree that violent media increases aggression in children, and pediatricians and parents agree. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(3), 200—214. Dexter, H. R., Penrod, S., Linz, D., & Saunders, D. (2006). Attributing responsibility to female victims after exposure to sexually violent films. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27(24), 2149–2171. Funk, J. B., Baldacci, H. B., Pasold, T., & Baumgardner, J. (2004). Violence exposure in real-life, video games, television, movies, and the internet: Is there desensitization? Journal of Adolescence, 27(1), 23–39. Vossen, H. G. M., Piotrowski, J. T., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). The Longitudinal relationship between media violence and empathy: Was it sympathy all along? Media Psychology, 20(2), 175–193. To Prepare Search the Walden Library and/or the Internet for the definition of desensitization, its symptoms, and the process that creates it. From your search and from the Learning Resources for this week, consider the ways that violence is presented and whether or not its presentation is appealing to children. Also, from your search, consider how social psychology theory is applied to reduce aggression. Assignment: Submit 3–5 pages, not including title page and reference page: ( I still need to add one more citation reading from the school library. I need at least one citation from every attachment to show that I have read all the material. Define desensitization and describes its process. Identify and describe symptoms of desensitization. Explain the methods used in the media to increase the desirability of violence. (i.e., what is rewarding the violence). Suggest ways for parents to reduce aggression exhibited by their children. In addition to the Learning Resources, search the Walden Library and/or Internet for peer-reviewed articles to support your Assignment. Use proper APA format and citations, including those in the Learning Resources. By Day 7 Submit your Media Violence and Desensitization Assignment. Submission and Grading Information To submit your completed Assignment for review and grading, do the following: Please save your Assignment using the naming convention “WK10Assgn+last name+first initial.(extension)” as the name. Click the Week 10 Assignment Rubric to review the Grading Criteria for the Assignment. Click the Week 10 Assignment link. You will also be able to “View Rubric” for grading criteria from this area. Next, from the Attach File area, click on the Browse My Computer button. Find the document you saved as “WK10Assgn+last name+first initial.(extension)” and click Open. If applicable: From the Plagiarism Tools area, click the checkbox for I agree to submit my paper(s) to the Global Reference Database. Click on the Submit button to complete your submission.

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New York University
Columbia University
Ss overheard an epileptic seizure. They believed either that they alone heard
the emergency, or that 1 or 4 unseen others were also present. As predicted
the presence of other bystanders reduced the individual’s feelings of personal
responsibility and lowered his speed of reporting (p < .01). In groups of
size 3, males reported no faster than females, and females reported no slower
when the 1 other bystander was a male rather than a female. In general,
personality and background measures were not predictive of helping. Bystander
inaction in real-life emergencies is often explained by “apathy,” “alienation,”
and “anomie.” This experiment suggests that the explanation may lie more
in the bystander’s response to other observers than in his indifference to
the victim.
Several years ago, a young woman was
stabbed to death in the middle of a street in
a residential section of New York City. Although
such murders are not entirely routine,
the incident received little public attention
until several weeks later when the New York
Times disclosed another side to the case: at
least 38 witnesses had observed the attack—
and none had even attempted to intervene.
Although the attacker took more than half
an hour to kill Kitty Genovese, not one of
the 38 people who watched from the safety
of their own apartments came out to assist
her. Not one even lifted the telephone to
call the police (Rosenthal, 1964).
Preachers, professors, and news commentators
sought the reasons for such apparently
conscienceless and inhumane lack of intervention.
Their conclusions ranged from “moral
decay,” to “dehumanization produced by
the urban environment,” to “alienation,”
“anomie,” and “existential despair.” An analysis
of the situation, however, suggests that
factors other than apathy and indifference
were involved.
A person witnessing an emergency situation,
particularly such a frightening and
1 This research was supported in part by National
Science Foundation Grants GS1238 and GS1239.
Susan Darley contributed materially to the design
of the experiment and ran the subjects, and she and
Thomas Moriarty analyzed the data. Richard
Nisbett, Susan Millman, Andrew Gordon, and
Norma Neiman helped in preparing the tape
dangerous one as a stabbing, is in conflict.
There are obvious humanitarian norms about
helping the victim, but there are also rational
and irrational fears about what might happen
to a person who does intervene (Milgram &
Hollander, 1964). “I didn’t want to get
involved,” is a familiar comment, and behind
it lies fears of physical harm, public embarrassment,
involvement with police procedures,
lost work days and jobs, and other unknown
In certain circumstances, the norms favoring
intervention may be weakened, leading
bystanders to resolve the conflict in the direction
of nonintervention. One of these circumstances
may be the presence of other onlookers.
For example, in the case above, each
observer, by seeing lights and figures in other
apartment house windows, knew that others
were also watching. However, there was no
way to tell how the other observers were
reacting. These two facts provide several
reasons why any individual may have delayed
or failed to help. The responsibility for helping
was diffused among the observers; there
was also diffusion of any potential blame for
not taking action; and finally, it was possible
that somebody, unperceived, had already
initiated helping action.
When only one bystander is present in an
emergency, if help is to come, it must come
from him. Although he may choose to ignore
it (out of concern for his personal safety,
or desires “not to get involved”), any pres-
sure to intervene focuses uniquely on him.
When there are several observers present,
however, the pressures to intervene do not
focus on any one of the observers; instead
the responsibility for intervention is shared
among all the onlookers and is not unique
to any one. As a result, no one helps.
A second possibility is that potential blame
may be diffused. However much we may wish
to think that an individual’s moral behavior
is divorced from considerations of personal
punishment or reward, there is both theory
and evidence to the contrary (Aronfreed,
1964; Miller & Bollard, 1941, Whiting &
Child, 19S3). It is perfectly reasonable to
assume that, under circumstances of group
responsibility for a punishable act, the punishment
or blame that accrues to any one
individual is often slight or nonexistent.
Finally, if others are known to be present,
but their behavior cannot be closely observed,
any one bystander can assume that one of
the other observers is already taking action
to end the emergency. Therefore, his own
intervention would be only redundant—perhaps
harmfully or confusingly so. Thus,
given the presence of other onlookers whose
behavior cannot be observed, any given bystander
can rationalize his own inaction by
convincing himself that “somebody else must
be doing something.”
These considerations lead to the hypothesis
that the more bystanders to an emergency,
the less likely, or the more slowly, any one
bystander will intervene to provide aid. To
test this propostion it would be necessary to
create a situation in which a realistic
“emergency” could plausibly occur. Each subject
should also be blocked from communicating
with others to prevent his getting
information about their behavior during the
emergency. Finally, the experimental situation
should allow for the assessment of the
speed and frequency of the subjects’ reaction
to the emergency. The experiment reported
below attempted to fulfill these conditions.
Overview. A college student arrived in the laboratory
and was ushered into an individual room from
which a communication system would enable him
to talk to the other participants. It was explained
to him that he was to take part in a discussion
about personal problems associated with college life
and that the discussion would be held over the
intercom system, rather than face-to-face, in order
to avoid embarrassment by preserving the anonymity
of the subjects. During the course of the discussion,
one of the other subjects underwent what
appeared to be a very serious nervous seizure similar
to epilepsy. During the fit it was impossible for
the subject to talk to the other discussants or to
find out what, if anything, they were doing about
the emergency. The dependent variable was the
speed with which the subjects reported the emergency
to the experimenter. The major independent
variable was the number of people the subject
thought to be in the discussion group.
Subjects. Fifty-nine female and thirteen male students
in introductory psychology courses at New
York University were contacted to take part in an
unspecified experiment as part of a class requirement.
Method. Upon arriving for the experiment, the
subject found himself in a long corridor with doors
opening off it to several small rooms. An experimental
assistant met him, took him to one of the
rooms, and seated him at a table. After filling out a
background information form, the subject was given
a pair of headphones with an attached microphone
and was told to listen for instructions.
Over the intercom, the experimenter explained that
he was interested in learning about the kinds of
personal problems faced by normal college students
in a high pressure, urban environment. He said
that to avoid possible embarrassment about discussing
personal problems with strangers several
precautions had been taken. First, subjects would
remain anonymous, which was why they had been
placed in individual rooms rather than face-to-face.
(The actual reason for this was to allow tape
recorder simulation of the other subjects and the
emergency.) Second, since the discussion might be
inhibited by the presence of outside listeners, the
experimenter would not listen to the initial discussion,
but would get the subject’s reactions later, by
questionnaire. (The real purpose of this was to
remove the obviously responsible experimenter from
the scene of the emergency.)
The subjects were told that since the experimenter
was not present, it was necessary to impose some
organization. Each person would talk in turn, presenting
his problems to the group. Next, each person
in turn would comment on what the others had said,
and finally, there would be a free discussion. A
mechanical switching device would regulate this discussion
sequence and each subject’s microphone
would be on for about 2 minutes. While any microphone
was on, all other microphones would be off.
Only one subject, therefore, could be heard over
the network at any given time. The subjects were
thus led to realize when they later heard the seizure
that only the victim’s microphone was on and that
there was no way of determining what any of the
other witnesses were doing, nor of discussing the
event and its possible solution with the others.
When these instructions had been given, the discussion
In the discussion, the future victim spoke first,
saying that he found it difficult to get adjusted to
New York City and lo his studies. Very hesitantly,
and with obvious embarrassment, he mentioned that
he was prone to seizures, particularly when studying
hard or taking exams. The other people, including
the real subject, took their turns and discussed
similar problems (minus, of course, the proneness to
seizures). The naive subject talked last in the
series, after the last prerecorded voice was played.2
When it was again the victim’s turn to talk, he
made a few relatively calm comments, and then,
growing increasingly louder and incoherent, he
I-er-um-I think I-I necd-er-if-if could-er-er-somebody
er-er-er-er-er-er-er give me a liltle-er-give
me a little help here because-er-I-er-I’m-er-erh-
h-having a-a-a real problcm-er-right now and
I-er-if somebody could help me out it would-it
would-er-er s-s-sure be-sure be good . . . becausecr-
there-er-cr-a cause I-er-I-uh-I’ve got a-a one of
the-er-sei er-cr-things coming on and-and-and
I could really-er-use some help so if somebody
would-er-give me a little h-help-uh-er-er-er-er-er
c-could somebody-er-er-help-er-uh-uh-uh (choking
sounds). . . . I’m gonna die-er-er-I’m . . . gonna
die-er-help-er-er-seizure-er-[chokes, then quiet].
The experimenter began timing the speed of the
real subject’s response at the beginning of the victim’s
speech. Informed judges listening to the tape
have estimated that the victim’s increasingly louder
and more disconnected ramblings clearly represented
a breakdown about 70 seconds after the
signal for the victim’s second speech. The victim’s
speech was abruptly cut off 125 seconds after this
signal, which could be interpreted by the subject
as indicating that the time allotted for that speaker
had elapsed and the switching circuits had switched
away from him. Times reported in the results are
measured from the start of the fit.
Group size variable. The major independent variable
of the study was the number of other people
that the subject believed also heard the fit. By the
assistant’s comments before the experiment, and also
by the number of voices heard to speak in the first
round of the group discussion, the subject was led
lo believe that the discussion group was one of three
sizes: either a two-person group (consisting of a
person who would later have a fit and the real
subject), a three-person group (consisting of the
victim, the real subject, and one confederate voice),
or a six-person group (consisting of the victim, the
real subject, and four confederate voices). All the
confederates’ voices were tape-recorded.
Variations in group composition. Varying the kind
as well as the number of bystanders present at an
2 To test whether the order in which the subjects
spoke in the first discussion round significantly affected
the subjects’ speed of report, the order in
which the subjects spoke was varied (in the sixperson
group). This had no significant or noticeable
effect on the speed of the subjects’ reports.
emergency should also vary the amount of responsibility
felt by any single bystander. To test this,
several variations of the three-person group were
run. In one three-person condition, the taped bystander
voice was that of a female, in another a
male, and in the third a male who said that he was
a premedical student who occasionally worked in
the emergency wards at Bellevue hospital.
In the above conditions, the subjects were female
college students. In a final condition males drawn
from the same introductory psychology subject pool
were tested in a three-person female-bystander
Time to help. The major dependent variable was
the time elapsed from the start of the victim’s fit
until the subject left her experimental cubicle. When
the subject left her room, she saw the experimental
assistant seated at the end of the hall, and invariably
went to the assistant. If 6 minutes elapsed
without the subject having emerged from her room,
the experiment was terminated.
As soon as the subject reported the emergency,
or after 6 minutes had elapsed, the experimental
assistant disclosed the true nature of the experiment,
and dealt with any emotions aroused in the
subject. Finally the subject filled out a questionnaire
concerning her thoughts and feelings during the
emergency, and completed scales of Machiavellianism,
anomie, and authoritarianism (Christie, 1964),
a social desirability scale (Crowne & Marlowe, 1964),
a social responsibility scale (Daniels & Berkowitz,
1964), and reported vital statistics and socioeconomic
Plausibility of Manipulation
Judging by the subjects’ nervousness when
they reported the fit to the experimenter, by
their surprise when they discovered that the
fit was simulated, and by comments they
made during the fit (when they thought
their microphones were off), one can conclude
that almost all of the subjects perceived
the fit as real. There were two exceptions in
different experimental conditions, and the
data for these subjects were dropped from
the analysis.
Effect of Group Size on Helping
The number of bystanders that the subject
perceived to be present had a major effect
on the likelihood with which she would
report the emergency (Table 1). Eighty-five
percent of the subjects who thought they
alone knew of the victim’s plight reported
the seizure before the victim was cut off, only
31% of those who thought four other bystanders
were present did so.
Group size
2 (5 & victim)
3 (S, victim, & 1 other)
6 (.9, victim, & 4 others)
% responding
by end of fit
in sec.
Note.—p value of diffciences: x
2 = 7.91, p < .02; 7” = 8.09,
p < .01, for speed scores.
Every one of the subjects in the twoperson
groups, but only 62% of the subjects
in the six-person groups, ever reported the
emergency. The cumulative distributions of
response times for groups of different perceived
size (Figure 1) indicates that, by
any point in time, more subjects from the
two-person groups had responded than from
the three-person groups, and more from the
three-person groups than from the six-person
Ninety-five percent of all the subjects who
ever responded did so within the first half
of the time available to them. No subject
who had not reported within 3 minutes after
the fit ever did so. The shape of these distributions
suggest that had the experiment
been allowed to run for a considerably longer
time, few additional subjects would have
Speed of Response
To achieve a more detailed analysis of the
results, each subject’s time score was transloo
12o 16O 2oo 24O 28O
Seconds from Beginning of Fit
FIG. 1. Cumulative distributions of helping responses.
formed into a “speed” score by taking the
reciprocal of the response time in seconds
and multiplying by 100. The effect of this
transformation was to deemphasize differences
between longer time scores, thus reducing
the contribution to the results of the
arbitrary 6-minute limit on scores. A high
speed score indicates a fast response.
An analysis of variance indicates that the
effect of group size is highly significant
(/> < .01). Duncan multiple-range tests indicate
that all but the two- and three-person
groups differ significantly from one another
Victim’s Likelihood of Being Helped
An individual subject is less likely to respond
if he thinks that others are present.
But what of the victim? Is the inhibition
of the response of each individual strong
enough to counteract the fact that with five
onlookers there are five times as many people
available to help? From the data of this
experiment, it is possible mathematically to
create hypothetical groups with one, two, or
five observers.8 The calculations indicate that
the victim is about equally likely to get help
from one bystander as from two. The victim
is considerably more likely to have gotten
help from one or two observers than from
five during the first minute of the fit. For
instance, by 45 seconds after the start of the
fit, the victim’s chances of having been helped
by the single bystanders were about 50%,
compared to none in the five observer condition.
After the first minute, the likelihood of
getting help from at least one person is high
in all three conditions.
Effect of Group Composition on Helping the
Several variations of the three-person group
were run. In one pair of variations, the
female subject thought the other bystander
was either male or female; in another, she
thought the other bystander was a premedical
student who worked in an emergency ward
at Bellevue hospital. As Table 2 shows, the
8 The formula for the probability that at least one
person will help by a given time is 1 — ( 1 — P ) ”
where n is the number of observers and P is the
probability of a single individual (who thinks he is
one of n observers) helping by that time.
Group composition
Female S, male other
Female S, female other
Female 5, male medic
Male S, female other
% responding
by end of fit
in sec.
» Three-person group, mule victim.
variations in sex and medical competence
of the other bystander had no important or
detectable affect on speed of response. Subjects
responded equally frequently and fast
whether the other bystander was female,
male, or medically experienced.
Sex of the Subject and Speed of Response
Coping with emergencies is often thought
to be the duty of males, especially when
females are present, but there was no evidence
that this was the case in this study.
Male subjects responded to the emergency
with almost exactly the same speed as did
females (Table 2).
Reasons for Intervention or Nonintervention
After the debriefing at the end of the experiment
each subject was given a 15-item
checklist and asked to check those thoughts
which had “crossed your mind when you
heard Subject 1 calling for help.” Whatever
the condition, each subject checked very few
thoughts, and there were no significant differences
in number or kind of thoughts in the
different experimental groups. The only
thoughts checked by more than a few subjects
were “I didn’t know what to do” (18
out of 65 subjects), “I thought it must be
some sort of fake” (20 out of 65), and “I
didn’t know exactly what was happening”
(26 out of 65).
It is possible that subjects were ashamed
to report socially undesirable rationalizations,
or, since the subjects checked the list after
the true nature of the experiment had been
explained to them, their memories might
have been blurred. It is our impression, however,
that most subjects checked few reasons
because they had few coherent thoughts
during the fit.
We asked all subjects whether the presence
or absence of other bystanders had entered
their minds during the time that they were
hearing the fit. Subjects in the three- and
six-person groups reported that they were
aware that other people were present, but
they felt that this made no difference to their
own behavior.
Individual Difference Correlates of Speed of
The correlations between speed of report
and various individual differences on the personality
and background measures were
obtained by normalizing the distribution of
report speeds within each experimental condition
and pooling these scores across all conditions
(« = 62-65). Personality measures
showed no important or significant correlations
with speed of reporting the emergency.
In fact, only one of the 16 individual difference
measures, the size of the community
in which the subject grew up, correlated
(r = -.26, p < .05) with the speed of
Subjects, whether or not they intervened,
believed the fit to be genuine and serious.
“My God, he’s having a fit,” many subjects
said to themselves (and were overheard via
their microphones) at the onset of the fit.
Others gasped or simply said “Oh.” Several
of the male subjects swore. One subject said
to herself, “It’s just my kind of luck, something
has to happen to me!” Several subjects
spoke aloud of their confusion about what
course of action to take, “Oh God, what
should I do?”
When those subjects who intervened
stepped out of their rooms, they found the
experimental assistant down the hall. With
some uncertainty, but without panic, they
reported the situation. “Hey, I think Number
1 is very sick. He’s having a fit or
something.” After ostensibly checking on the
situation, the experimenter returned to report
that “everything is under control.” The subjects
accepted these assurances with obvious
Subjects who failed to report the emergency
showed few signs of the apathy and
indifference thought to characterize “unresponsive
bystanders.” When the experimenter
entered her room to terminate the situation,
the subject often asked if the victim was
“all right.” “Is he being taken care of?”
“He’s all right isn’t he?” Many of these subjects
showed physical signs of nervousness;
they often had trembling hands and sweating
palms. If anything, they seemed more emotionally
aroused than did the subjects who
reported the emergency.
Why, then, didn’t they respond? It is our
impression that nonintervening subjects had
not decided not to respond. Rather they were
still in a state of indecision and conflict concerning
whether to respond or not. The
emotional behavior of these nonresponding
subjects was a sign of their continuing
conflict, a conflict that other subjects resolved
by responding.
The fit created a conflict situation of the
avoidance-avoidance type. On the one hand,
subjects worried about the guilt and shame
they would feel if they did not help the
person in distress. On the other hand, they
were concerned not to make fools of themselves
by overreacting, not to ruin the ongoing
experiment by leaving their intercom,
and not to destroy the anonymous nature of
the situation which the experimenter had
earlier stressed as important. For subjects in
the two-person condition, the obvious distress
of the victim and his need for help were so
important that their conflict was easily resolved.
For the subjects who knew there were
other bystanders present, the cost of not helping
was reduced and the conflict they were in
more acute. Caught between the two negative
alternatives of letting the victim continue
to suffer or the costs of rushing in to help,
the nonresponding bystanders vacillated between
them rather than choosing not to
respond. This distinction may be academic
for the victim, since he got no help in either
case, but it is an extremely important one
for arriving at an understanding of the
causes of bystanders’ failures to help.
Although the subjects experienced stress
and conflict during the experiment, their
general reactions to it were highly positive.
On a questionnaire administered after the
experimenter had discussed the nature and
purpose of the experiment, every single subject
found the experiment either “interesting”
or “very interesting” and was willing to participate
in similar experiments in the future.
All subjects felt they understood what the
experiment was about and indicated that they
thought the deceptions were necessary and
justified. All but one felt they were better
informed about the nature of psychological
research in general.
Male subjects reported the emergency no
faster than did females. These results (or
lack of them) seem to conflict with the
Berkowitz, Klanderman, and Harris (1964)
finding that males tend to assume more responsibility
and take more initiative than
females in giving help to dependent others.
Also, females reacted equally fast when the
other bystander was another female, a male,
or even a person practiced in dealing with
medical emergencies. The ineffectiveness of
these manipulations of group composition
cannot be explained by general insensitivity
of the speed measure, since the group-size
variable had a marked effect on report speed.
It might be helpful in understanding this
lack of difference to distinguish two general
classes of intervention in emergency situations:
direct and reportorial. Direct intervention
(breaking up a fight, extinguishing a
fire, swimming out to save a drowner) often
requires skill, knowledge, or physical power.
It may involve danger. American cultural
norms and Berkowitz’s results seem to suggest
that males are more responsible than
females for this kind of direct intervention.
A second way of dealing with an emergency
is to report it to someone qualified to handle
it, such as the police. For this kind of intervention,
there seem to be no norms requiring
male action. In the present study, subjects
clearly intended to report the emergency
rather than take direct action. For such
indirect intervention, sex or medical competence
does not appear to affect one’s qualifications
or responsibilities. Anybody, male
or female, medically trained or not, can find
the experimenter.
In this study, no subject was able to tell
how the other subjects reacted to the fit.
(Indeed, there were no other subjects actually
present.) The effects of group size on
speed of helping, therefore, are due simply to
the perceived presence of others rather than
to the influence of their actions. This means
that the experimental situation is unlike
emergencies, such as a fire, in which bystanders
interact with each other. It is, however,
similar to emergencies, such as the
Genovese murder, in which spectators knew
others were also watching but were prevented
by walls between them from communication
that might have counteracted the
diffusion of responsibility.
The present results create serious difficulties
for one class of commonly given explanations
for the failure of bystanders to intervene
in actual emergencies, those involving
apathy or indifference. These explanations
generally assert that people who fail to intervene
are somehow different in kind from the
rest of us, that they are “alienated by industrialization,”
“dehumanized by urbanization,”
“depersonalized by living in the cold society,”
or “psychopaths.” These explanations serve
a dual function for people who adopt them.
First, they explain (if only in a nominal
way) the puzzling and frightening problem
of why people watch others die. Second, they
give individuals reason to deny that they
too might fail to help in a similar situation.
The results of this experiment seem to
indicate that such personality variables may
not be as important as these explanations
suggest. Alienation, Machiavellianism, acceptance
of social responsibility, need for
approval, and authoritarianism are often
cited in these explanations. Yet they did not
predict the speed or likelihood of help. In
sharp contrast, the perceived number of
bystanders did. The explanation of bystander
“apathy” may lie more in the bystander’s
response to other observers than in presumed
personality deficiencies of “apathetic” individuals.
Although this realization may force
us to face the guilt-provoking possibility that
we too might fail to intervene, it also suggests
that individuals are not, of necessity, “noninterveners”
because of their personalities.
If people understand the situational forces
that can make them hesitate to intervene,
they may better overcome them.
ARONFREED, J. The origin of self-criticism. Psychological
Review, 1964, 71, 193-219.
of experimenter awareness and sex of subject
on reactions to dependency relationships. Sociometry,
1964, 27, 327-329.
CHRISTIE, R. The prevalence of machiavellian orientations.
Paper presented at the meeting of the
American Psychological Association, Los Angeles,
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DANIELS, L., & BERKOWITZ, L. Liking and response
to dependency relationships. Human Relations,
1963, 16, 141-148.
MILGRAM, S., & HOLLANDER, P. Murder they heard.
Nation, 1964, 198, 602-604.
MILLER, N., & BOLLARD, J. Social learning and
imitation. New Haven: Yale University Press,
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York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.
WHITING, J. W. M., & CHILD, I. Child training and
personality. New Haven: Yale University Press,
(Received July 8, 1967)

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