Researchers Darley and Latane

Researchers Darley and Latane (1968) decided to conduct a research study after an incident that occurred in New York four year before. A young woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in the middle of the street in New York City. The case didn’t get much attention in the media, until the New York Times disclosed more to the case that the public didn’t know. Thirty-eight witnesses observed the attack of Kitty Genovese and not one of them did anything to help her out. Out of the 38 witnesses, none of them picked up the phone to call the police (Rosenthal, 1964). Why would this be? How can a citizen just stand and watch from their apartment and not do one thing? Researchers Darley and Latane (1968) believed that the reason no one helped Kitty Genovese was a phenomenon which they called “diffusion of responsibility.”
They hypothesized that “the more bystanders to an emergency, the less likely, or the more slowly, any one bystander will intervene to provide aid” (Darley & Latane, 1968, p. 378.) To test this, the researchers decided to create a situation where a realistic “emergency” would happen. The number of people the subject thought to be in the discussion group was the independent variable and the speed in which the subjects reported the emergency to the experimenter is the dependent variable. As a class requirement, 74 participants from an undergraduate psychology course at New York University were brought in to participate in the study. Participants were then placed in a room then given headsets (headphones with a microphone attached) and waited for the instructions to be given. The participants were asked questions about personal issues/problems that has occurred throughout their college life through the intercom rather than face-to-face. What the participants didn’t know was that during the discussion, someone on the other end would appear to be having a severe nervous seizure.
Darley and Latane (1968) found that the number of bystanders that the subject perceived to be present had a major effect on the likelihood which they would report an emergency. The researchers found that 85% of the participants reported the seizure before the victim was cut off. As predicted by the researchers, the presence of other bystanders reduced the individual’s feelings of personal responsibility and lowered the speed of reporting (Darley & Latane, 1968.) Darley and Latane (1968) suggests for future research that “the explanation may lie more in the bystander’s response to other observers than in the indifference to the victim” (p.377). All to which would further help to investigate why this occurrence would happen in a deadly situation. How, can one assume others will call authority or simply stand there and watch the crime taking place, understand the root of the bystander’s effect will help answer these questions researchers wonder.
In a more recent study on bystander effect, Polanin, Espelage and Pigott (2012) focused on school based interventions that emphasized changing the bystander’s intervention behavior. For their study, they designed to include only studies that used a treatment-control research design: true experimental randomly assigned groups, nonrandom quasi-experimental design and nonrandom assigned match group. The goal of their study was to conduct a meta-analysis that would directly address bystander intervention behavior and empathy attitudes. Polanin, Espelage and Pigott (2012) had two main research questions that they wanted to address: what is the average treatment effect, across the current literature, of bullying prevention programs on bystander intervention behavior and what study characteristics produced the largest treatment effect?
The researchers used previous research studies whose primary goal was focused on bystander behavior. They collected peer-reviewed studies that were focused on school based interventions that emphasized changing the bystander’s intervention behavior. Eleven studies in total where concluded as relevant to the current study. Those 11 studies, included 12,874 children from the United States and Europe. By using a quantitative synthesis, the researchers were not able to examine the treatment effects of bullying prevention programs on bystander intervention behavior. This idea relates to a global issue that unfortunately happens regularly at schools.
Bullying prevention programs effectiveness at increasing bystander intervention in bullying situations was the meta-analysis that was synthesized in this study (Polanin, Espelage & Pigott, 2012.) Evidence of the 12,874 kids revealed that the program was successful. This meta-analysis indicated “the programs increased bystander intervention both on practical and statistically significant level” (Polanin, Espelage & Pigott, 2012, p. 47.) The findings of this study are relatively important because of the phenomena around bullying in schools. Hawkins, Pepler and Craig (2001) mention that when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time. The results of the study suggest that if school administrators considered implementation programs that focus on bystander intervention behavior instead of bullying prevention programs can have a higher success rate with students. This finding is very important since bullying is a behavior which will never go away but finding solutions to minimize this behavior can help many students in the long run.