Probably the most famous incident cited in Social Psychology textbooks occured in April 1964 in New York City. A woman, Kitty Genovese, was stabbed to death when she returned home from a night job at 3 a.m.. What made this case different from other murder cases was that, the murderer took about 30 minutes to kill his victim, stabbing her, running away and then returning to stab her again. Her screams attracted the attention of large numbers of witnesses and at least 38 people watched the attack from the safety of their appartments. But not one person intervened, and no one telephoned the police.
This incident has inspired two lines of research, the first concerned with the situation (bystander intervention in emergencies), the second with the wider context (life in cities). This lecture dealt with both.
Much of the research in this area was carried out by Darley and Latané (1970) and they proposed that before an individual helps a victim he or she must go through a process of decision making that consists of at least 4 stages given below
A. Perceive an emergency 1. degree of ambiguity of distress cues 2. reactions of other bystanders 3. likelihood of escaping distress cues B. Assume responsibility for the victims fate 1. number of other bystanders present 2. degree of acquaintance 3. designation of responsibility C. Want to help 1. characteristics of the bystander 2. costs of helping D. Have ability to help
Some examples of studies which deal with factors that affect this decision process are:
In 1850 only 2% of the world's population lived in cities. Today the figure is around 30% and increasing, which makes it important to investigate how the cities we live in affect our lives. Social psychologists have proposed at least three models of urban life.
Typical evidence would be Rushton's study of helping in different environments:
|Type of request||Small Town||Suburbs||Inner City|
|asking for the time||97||95||91|
|asking for directions||97||90||88|
|asking for change||84||73||70|
|asking someone their name||51||39||26|
Further evidence is given in Amato, P. (1983). Helping behaviour in urban and rural environments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 571-586
Do these models actually account for the data?
|Less contact with relatives||Less contact with friends||Less contact with neighbours||Less contact with neighbours|
|Is difference usually found?||NO||NO||YES||YES|
|Is the difference predicted by Milgram's model?||NO||NO||YES||YES|
|Is the difference predicted by Fischer's model?||NO||NO||YES*||YES|
|Is the difference predicted by Gans' model?||NO||NO||NO||NO|
*assuming heterogenity among neighboursPaul Webley's home page