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The Bystander Problem
People ignore cries to help their fellow "Man" - stunning
The headlines are unbelievable, the video is stunning!
A man comes across a woman being mugged, gets stabbed repeatedly in the chest coming to her aid, then lies dying on the sidewalk for over an hour and a half while people walk past in ... in New York!
What is so unbelievable is that up to 20 people walked past him, some paused to stare at him and one even took a cell phone picture of him as he lay dying! Couldn't one of them have dialed 9-1-1 so as to get some medical assistance for the man? Couldn't the woman he rescued have called police to report the foiled mugging and secured assistance for her rescuer?
And just recently in Toronto, a similar case. A 66 year old woman with Alzeimers wanders out of the house around 2 am in -20Â° C weather. The RCMP investigation reveals that neighbours heard screams around 2 am but didn't report them. A newspaper delivery woman found the elderly woman around 5:30 am, with no pulse. Subsequent attempts at CPR were unsuccessful.
The only answer I can find is the "Bystander Problem" described in "The Tipping Point". While the "Bystander Problem" may provide an explanation as to why no one took the initiative to call for assistance, it doesn't absolve any of them for not doing so.
Headline: "Passersby ignore dying New York homeless man stabbed after saving woman"
News Stories document tragedy
The news story in the The New York Post (see below) is an example of a number of stories, in newspapers, TV News, blogs, etc., describing an incident on or about April 24, 2010 in New York.
Briefly, a homeless man came upon a woman being mugged and stepped in to assist. The incident occurred just out of the field of view of a surveillance camera, which shows the man moving off screen, then staggering back in to view where he subsequently collapses.
What makes the tragedy so unbelievable is the fact that he lay on the sidewalk for over an hour and a half, bleeding to death, while people walked by.
"In the wake of the bloodshed, a man came out of a nearby building and chillingly took a mobile phone photo of the victim before leaving.
In several instances, pairs of people gawked at Tale-Yax without doing anything.
Later, another man stopped, leaned over and vigorously shook Tale-Yax's body. After lifting the victim's head and body to reveal a pool of blood, he also walked off."
One wonders how up to 20, presumably civilized, people could wander by a man dying on the sidewalk and not render some assistance, even if only to call 9-1-1. What about the woman being mugged? Wouldn't she call the police to report the attempted mugging, .. the injured man who assisted her?
I find this to be stunningly unbelievable, however, there was, apparently, a similar situation in Queens in 1964. Subsequent research by psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley resulted in identifying the "Bystander Problem".
- US 'good Samaritan" left to die
A brief story by BBC News.
- Passersby ignore dying New York homeless man stabbed after saving woman
Slightly more content by News.com.au on the story, references The New York Post story below.
- Stabbed hero dies as more than 20 people stroll past him
The story in The New York Post referenced above, with link to video.
A 66-year-old Womna Dies in Driveway in Bitter Cold
Neighbours Hear Screams - Do Nothing!
In another case, in Toronto, a 66-year-old woman died in a respectable neighbourhood after wandering out of the house around 2 am in -20Â° C weather. The woman, who may have suffered from Alzeimers, appears to have tried to get back into the house (as evidenced by scratch marks on the door) and tried to get herself off the driveway (as evidenced by finger marks on the car).
As with the previous story, neighbours apparently heard her screams but no one reported them to the police for investigation. As a result, the woman died of hypothermia in a driveway in a respectable neighbourhood.
If you didn't read the news story, would you have believed it could happen?
"The Tipping Point"
by Malcolm Gladwell
I found the following reference in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" describing a similar situation in which thirty-eight witnesses watched and did nothing as Kitty Genovese was attacked and killed over half an hour.
While I find these situations unbelievable and hope I would act in a similar situation, one has to wonder. You never know what you will do in a given situation until it occurs. But I hope that if I were to come across someone injured and requiring assistance, I would take action.
The Bystander Problem
A Famous Example
The following is quoted from Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point":
"One of the most famous incidents in New York City history, for example, was the 1964 stabbing death of a young Queens woman by the name of Kitty Genovese. Genovese was chased by her assailant and attacked three times on the street, over the course of half an hour, as thirty-eight of her neighbors watched from their windows. During that time, however, none of the thirty-eight witnesses called the police. The case provoked rounds of self-recrimination. It became symbolic of the cold and dehumanizing effects of urban life. Abe Rosenthal, who would later become editor of the New York Times, wrote in a book about the case:
Nobody can say why the thirty-eight did not lift the phone while Miss Genovese was being attacked, since they cannot say themselves. It can be assumed, however, that their apathy was indeed one of the big-city variety. It is almost a matter of psychological survival, if one is surrounded and pressed by millions of people, to prevent them from constantly impinging on you, and the only way to do this is to ignore them as often as possible. Indifference to one's neighbor and his troubles is a conditioned reflex in life in New York as it is in other big cities.
This is the kind of environmental explanation that makes intuitive sense to us. The anonymity and alienation of big-city life makes people hard and unfeeling. The truth about Genovese, however, turns out to be a little more complicated - and more interesting."
The "Bystander Problem"
The "Bystander Problem"
"Two New York City psychologists - Bibb Latane of Columbia University and John Darley of New York University - subsequently conducted a series of studies to try to understand what they dubbed the "bystander problem". They staged emergencies of one kind or another in different situation in order to see who would come and help. What they found, surprisingly, was that the one factor above all else that predicted helping behaviour was how many witnesses there were to the event. ...
When people are in a group, in other words, responsibility for acting is diffused. They assume that someone else will make the call, or they assume that because no one else is acting, the apparent problem ... isn't really a problem. In the case of Kitty Genovese, then, social psychologists like Latane and Darley argue, the lesson is not that no one called despite the fact that thirty-eight people heard her scream; it's that no called because thirty-eight people heard her scream.
Psychologists have, apparently, offered an explanation as to why such situations, as stunning and unbelievable as they are, might occur. While it might be possible to rationalize how it might occur, it doesn't absolve the 20 people who walked by of their responsibility to act, if only to call 9-1-1.
While it may be a result of big city indifference, we still believe ourselves to be civilized and to act towards others in a humanitarian manner. In my mind, this incident casts doubt on the extent to which we are civilized and that our humanitarian sentiments are precious only when we don't have to get personally involved.
Chances are that none of the people reading this were one of the infamous "20", however, they were representatives for all of us at that time and place. Can we be absolutely confident that we would not have acted in exactly the same way?
The Tipping Point - by Malcolm Gladwell
Another very interesting book by Malcolm Gadwell.
I found Malcolm Gadwell's "The Tipping Point" to be a very interesting book on the small effects which trigger large cultural phenomena. In the book, Mr. Gladwell discusses a case of Gonorrhea in Colorado, Hush Puppies and the incident with Kitty Genovese in New York as examples of group psychology.
We may have beliefs regarding how we would expect ourselves to behave in a given situation, however, group psychology may govern our behaviour in an entirely different manner.
"The Tipping Point" was well worth reading.
Would you have offered assistance?
Unfortunately, we can never know how we will respond to, and act in, any given situation. We would like to think of ourselves as heroes, pillars of society ... as Good Samaritans.
I find it stunning that of 20 people, none thought to offer assistance to a man bleeding on a sidewalk. One even took a cell phone picture rather than use the cell phone to call for help!
For a civilized society concerned with Human Rights, Civil Liberties, etc., it speaks poorly of our society in that those 20 people, as representatives of us at that time and place, chose not to act.
What do you think of this story and the "Bystander Problem"?
I think I would have chosen not to get involved. It probably wasn't all that clear that he was injured and bleeding and he probably looked like a drunk.
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I am stunned and in a state of disbelief that such a situation could occur in the middle of a First World country, where police and medical assistance are only a phone call away. I am stunned that the woman being mugged wouldn't call for assistance for her rescuer. I am stunned that 20 people would not only walk by, but even take photographs
What do you think?.