Opening strategy -Sentence identifying the author, topic, and title of the article you have read -summary of main ideas and major points of the reading and how the author supports his/her claims -the author purpose for writing the article -thesis statement describing your reaction and response to the article The Article is attached (We Are All Bystanders) Reading: We Are All Bystanders By Marsh, J., & Keltner, D., (2006). Retrieved and adapted from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/we_are_all_bystanders# Introduction For more than 40 years, Peggy Kirihara has felt guilty about Stewart. Peggy liked Stewart. They went to high school together. Their fathers were friends, both farmers in California’s Central Valley, and Peggy would always say “hi” when she passed Stewart in the hall. However, every day when Stewart got on their school bus, a couple of boys would tease him mercilessly. And every day, Peggy would just sit in her seat, silent. “I was dying inside for him,” she said. “There were enough of us on the bus who were feeling awful; we could have done something, but none of us said anything.” Peggy still cannot explain why she did not defend Stewart. She knew the other children, and she did not find them threatening. She thinks if she had spoken up on his behalf, other kids might have helped to make the teasing stop, but perhaps most surprising and distressing to Peggy is that she considers herself a self-confident and moral person, yet those beliefs are not supported by her behavior on the bus. “I think I would say something now, but I don’t know for sure,” she said. “Maybe if I saw someone being beaten up and killed, I’d just stand there. That still worries me.” Many of us share Peggy’s concern. We have all found ourselves in similar situations; we witness a problem, consider some kind of positive action, then respond by doing… nothing. Something holds us back. We remain bystanders. Why don’t we help in these situations? These are questions that concern all of us. Every day we serve as bystanders to the world around us—not just to people in need on the street but to larger social, political, and environmental problems that concern us, but which we feel powerless to address on our own. “Why do some people respond to these crises while others don’t?” asks Charles Garfield, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and author of a book about the psychological differences between bystanders and people who display “moral courage.” Researchers have spent the past few decades trying to answer Garfield’s question. Their results reveal a valuable story about human nature: Often, only subtle differences separate the bystanders from the morally courageous people of the world. Most of us, it seems, have the potential to fall into either category. It is the small, seemingly insignificant details in a situation that can push us one way or the other. Researchers have identified some of the invisible forces that prevent us from acting on our own moral instincts while also suggesting how we might fight back against these same forces. Together, these results offer a scientific understanding for what motivates us to everyday altruism and lifetimes of activism, and what tempts us to remain bystanders. Causes of the Bystander Effect I. Diffusion of Responsibility Among the most infamous bystanders are 38 people in Queens, New York, who in 1964 witnessed the murder of one of their neighbors, a young woman named Kitty Genovese. While the Genovese murder shocked the American public, it also moved several social psychologists to try to understand the behavior of people like Genovese’s neighbors. One of those psychologists was John Darley, who was living in New York at the time. Ten days after the Genovese murder, Darley had lunch with another psychologist, Bibb Latané, and they discussed the incident. They conducted several studies in which they observed people’s reactions to others who acted as though they were in need of help. Darley and Latané attributed their results to a “diffusion of responsibility”: When study participants thought there were other witnesses to the emergency, they felt less personal responsibility to intervene. Similarly, the witnesses of the Kitty Genovese murder may have seen other apartment lights go on, or seen each other in the windows, and assumed someone else would help. The end result is altruistic apathy. II. Pluralistic Ignorance Darley and Latané also suspected that bystanders do not intervene in an emergency because they are misled by the reactions of the people around them. To test this hypothesis, they ran an experiment in which they asked participants to fill out questionnaires in a laboratory room. After the participants had gotten to work, smoke filled the room, a clear signal of danger. When participants were alone, seventy-five percent of them left the room and reported the smoke to the experimenter. With three participants in the room, only thirty-eight percent left to report the smoke. And quite remarkably, when a participant was joined by two actors instructed not to show any concern, only ten percent of the participants reported the smoke to the experimenter. The passive bystanders in this study surrendered to what is known as “pluralistic ignorance”—the tendency to mistake one another’s calm as a sign that no emergency is actually taking place. There are strong social behaviors that reinforce pluralistic ignorance. It is somewhat embarrassing, after all, to be the only one who panics when no danger actually exists. Such an effect was likely acting on the people who witnessed the Kitty Genovese incident; indeed, many said they did not realize what was going on beneath their windows and assumed it was a lover’s quarrel. That interpretation was reinforced by the fact that no one else was responding, either. III. Victim Characteristics Another important factor is the characteristics of the victim. Research has shown that people are more likely to help those they perceive to be similar to them, including others from their own racial or ethnic groups. In general, women tend to receive more help than men, but this varies according to appearance: More attractive and femininely dressed women tend to receive more help from passersby. We do not like to discover that our tendency for altruism can depend on prejudice or the details of a particular situation, but these scientific findings force us to consider how we would perform under pressure; they reveal that Kitty Genovese’s neighbors might have been just like us. Even more frightening, it becomes easier to understand how good people in Rwanda or Nazi Germany remained silent against the horrors around them. Afraid, confused, threatened, or willfully unaware, they could convince themselves that it wasn’t their responsibility to intervene. However, some did assume this responsibility, and this is the other half of the bystander story. Some researchers refer to the “active bystander,” a person who witnesses an emergency, recognizes it as such, and takes it upon herself to do something about it. Who are these people? Are they inspired to action because they receive strong cues within a situation, indicating it is an emergency? Or is there a particular set of characteristics—a personality type—that makes some people more likely to be active bystanders while others remain passive? Why People Help A leader in the study of the differences between active and passive bystanders is psychologist Ervin Staub, whose research interests were influenced by his experiences as a young Jewish child in Hungary during World War II. “I was to be killed in the Holocaust,” he said. “And there were important bystanders in my life who showed me that people don’t have to be passive in the face of evil.” One of these people was his family’s maid, Maria, a Christian woman who risked her life to hide Staub and his sister while seventy-five percent of Hungary’s 600,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis. Staub has tried to understand what motivates
the Marias of the world and explore what makes people more likely to intervene rather than serve as passive bystanders. I. Positive Influences In one experiment, a study participant and an actor were placed in a room together and told to work on a task together. Soon afterwards, they heard a crash and cries of distress. When the actor ignored the sounds—saying something like, “That sounds like a tape. .. Or I guess it could be part of another experiment.”—only twenty-five percent of the participants went into the next room to try to help. But when the actor said, “That sounds bad. Maybe we should do something,” sixty-six percent of the participants took action, and when the actor added that participants should go into the next room to check out the sounds, every single one of them tried to help. These findings suggest the positive influence we can have as bystanders. Just as passive bystanders reinforce a sense that nothing is wrong in a situation, the active bystander can, in fact, get people to focus on a problem and motivate them to take action. II. Personality Factors But Staub has tried to take this research one step further. He has developed a questionnaire meant to identify people with a predisposition toward becoming active bystanders. People who score well on this survey express a greater concern for the welfare of others, greater feelings of social responsibility, and a commitment to moral values, and they also prove more likely to help others when an opportunity arises. Similar research has been conducted by sociologist Samuel Oliner. Like Staub, Oliner is a Holocaust survivor whose work has been inspired by the people who helped him escape the Nazis. With his wife Pearl, a professor of education, he conducted an extensive study into “the altruistic personality,” interviewing more than four-hundred people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, as well as more than one-hundred non-rescuers and Holocaust survivors alike. In their book, The Altruistic Personality, the Oliners explain that rescuers shared some deep personality traits, which they described as their “capacity for extensive relationships, or in other words, their stronger sense of attachment to others and their feelings of responsibility for the welfare of others.” They also found that these tendencies had been instilled in many rescuers from the time they were young children, often from parents who displayed more tolerance, care, and empathy toward their children and toward people different from themselves. “I would claim there is a predisposition in some people to help whenever the opportunity arises,” said Oliner, who contrasts this group to bystanders. “A bystander is less concerned with the outside world, beyond his own immediate community. A bystander might be less tolerant of differences, thinking ‘Why should I get involved? These are not my people. Maybe they deserve it?’ They do not see helping as a choice, but rescuers see tragedy and feel no choice but to get involved. How could they stand by and let another person perish?” Anti-Bystander Education “I think that altruism, caring, social responsibility is not only doable, it’s teachable,” said Oliner. Research suggests that this kind of education is possible. One set of studies even found that people who attended social psychology lectures about the causes of bystander behavior were more likely to intervene in crises. In recent years, there have been educational programs that encourage more people to avoid the traps of becoming a bystander. These programs support a point that John Darley makes: More people need to learn about the subtle pressures that can cause bystander behavior, such as diffusion of responsibility and pluralistic ignorance. That way they will be better prepared the next time they encounter a crisis situation. “We want to explode one particular view that people have: ‘Were I in that situation, I would behave in an altruistic, wonderful way,’” he said. “What I say is, ‘No, you’re misreading what’s happening. I want to teach you about the pressures [that can cause bystander behavior]. Then when you feel those pressures, I want that to be a cue that you might be getting things wrong.’” Of course, not even this form of education is a guarantee against becoming a bystander. We are always influenced by the complicated interaction between our personal disposition and the demands of circumstance, and we may never know how we’ll act until we find ourselves in a crisis.


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