Bystander Apathy Effect is defined as a phenomenon wherein the greater the number of individuals are present, they are less likely to extend a hand and help others who are in complicated situations. When these situations take place, individuals decide to help when there are few witnesses and other individuals in the area. In order to determine the real explanation behind these behaviors, Bystander Apathy Effect Experiment was conducted by Latane and Darley.
The social experiment was conducted in connection with the Kitty Genovese Murder. This girl was stabbed in the back twice by Winston Mosely while parking the car near her apartment. Due to intense pain, the girl shouted loudly for help and one of the neighbors shouted at the criminal to leave the girl alone. This gets the criminal’s attention so he hurriedly left the scene with Kitty Genovese crawling in pain.
There are several witnesses who have stated that they have witnessed the event and have seen the murderer come back after ten minutes seeing the victim almost unconsciously lying on the ground. The murderer stabbed the wounded victim even more, stole the money and sexually assaulted her. A neighbor took effort to call an ambulance and the police but it was all too late. About 38 neighbors of Kitty Genovese are aware that the murder is taking place that time but all of them decide to do nothing to rescue the girl.
Psychologists are wondering why there are such indifference, lack of concern and apathy observed in Kitty’s neighbors. This has triggered them to conduct the Bystander Apathy Effect Experiment. They have recruited students and told them that they will be joining discussion regarding personal problems. This is to determine how these students would react to almost same emergency situation where one certainly needs help.
Participants will be on separate rooms talking to other participants over speakers and microphones so that they will not see each other physically. They will be given two minutes to speak during their turn. Microphones of other participants will be turned to off mode. There will be five treatment conditions and the number of voices that the primary subject will be conversing to depend on the particular treatment condition he is into.
There is a point in the Bystander Apathy Effect Experiment wherein one student suffering from epilepsy is having a seizure. The voice will confess that his seizures are life threatening. The subject can only hear what is happening but not actually the participant displaying the seizures. The results of the Bystander Apathy Effect Experiment revealed that individuals react more if they think that they are the only one who knows about the incident. However few percentages do not bother to help the participant who is suffering. They are anxious; however the reaction is not really there.
Based on this Bystander Apathy Effect Experiment, individuals act this way because of two reasons. The first one is diffusion of obligation or responsibility and the second one is pluralistic ignorance. The former occurs when other individuals intervene making the other individual feel less accountable and latter means a mentality that since others do not react to the emergency situation, personal help is not really necessary.