Bystander Effect in an Elevator Humans are unique in their social cognition because they make decisions based on their representations of reality. When trying to understand why people react or do not react, you must look at “the state of the world and the mental states (i. e, intentions, beliefs, desire)” (Buttelmann & Buttelmann, 2016, p. 127). This is crucial in understanding the social phenomenon known as the “bystander effect.
This phenomenon refers to “an individual’s likelihood of helping decreases when passive bystanders are present in a situation” (Fisher & Krueger, Greitemeyer, Vogrincic, Kastenmuller, Frey, Henne, Wicher & Kainbacher, 2011, p. 517). The notion that someone else will step often contradicts itself because the presence of others discourages people from helping. There is an inverse relationship between help from a single bystander and a number of bystanders around the incident. The story of Kitty Genovese, who was brutally murdered, is an example of bystander effect.
One evening Genovese returned to her New York City apartment and was met by a stranger who proceeded to attack her. During her attack, her many neighbors heard her screams and witnessed her murder from their windows, but no one immediately called the police or intervened (Hudson & Bruckman, 2004). This incident is not one of a kind but happens all the time at different levels of severity. For example, how often have you seen a car on the side of the road and not stopped to offer help or watched on as someone struggled to complete a task?
The explanations for such a response to not do anything is tied to apathy, habituation, fear of retaliation but is strongly linked to the social psychological phenomenon of the bystander effect. Especially, the idea that individuals are less likely to offer assistance in an emergency situation when others are around (Hudson & Brukman, 2004). This is crucial in bullying, especially in a school setting. Researchers interested in the aspect of bystander effect on bullying with children have found, that in a hypothetical situation, most children show displeasure with bullying and are willing to defend the victim.
However, in an actual situation, the chances of one or more children defending a victim drop significantly (Pozzoli & Gini, 2012). Pozzoli and Gini show that many studies “indicate that onlookers can play different roles in the bullying process” (2012, p. 313) For example, they may encourage the bully by laughing or cheering, being passive by silently watching, and take action by intervening immediately or getting an adult to intervene. This can be seen in the 4 key components of bystander effect: self-awareness, social cues, blocking mechanisms, and diffuse responsibility (Hudson & Brukman, 2004).
Self-awareness is being aware that a situation is taking place. Social cues are when individuals look to one another for cues about what to do. The “inaction of others will likely cause the inaction of an individual” (Hudson & Bruckman, 2004, p. 170). Blocking is the idea that someone else will intervene because if multiple people intervene it could worsen the situation. Lastly, diffusion of responsibility is where only a small percentage of people take action because people feel like they only have limited responsibility.
Cowie researchers how gender and age of the bystander plays a crucial role in any situation (2014). For example, secondary boys are less engaged and passive in their response compared to girls. As wells as, girls will intervene less likely as grade levels increase but will more likely help than boys. (Cowie, 2014, p. 28). This is something we took into consideration in our study because we will only use the typical college age students versus the whole population.
The author, also points out, that as students age there is a shift from direct intervention (i. , physically standing in between victim and bully) to indirect interventions (i. e. , distracting the bully by changing the topic). This kind of shift shows us that educators, parents and adults need to emphasis the importance of direct intervention. As well as, from individual interventions to group interventions (Cowie, 2014). We must also look at the severity of situation because this plays into a person’s mind when contemplating whether to be involved or not.
In a meta-analysis on bystander effect, the researchers noted that in extreme situation the bystander effect disappears and people get involved then a lesser extreme situation or an ambiguous situation (Fisher et al. , 2011, 518). The key importance of overcoming bystander effect is to empower students and make sure they know that they are not worthless. When students are able to recognize inequality, and have been taught to be “upstanders”, an individual who makes the decision to protect others at risk, they can overcome the bystander effect (Woglom & Pennington, 2010, p. 256).
We hope to see how many of our participants are able to be “upstanders”. After reading the studies on bystander affect, we hypothesize that there will be a main effect of the droppers’ gender on the amount of help receive, a main effect of the number of confederates on the likelihood of helping, and an interaction between droppers’ gender and number of confederates. Method Participants Thirty-two students from James Madison University, a medium size university, took part in this experiment. Students enter the elevator at random, of those that enter sixteen of the students in the experiment, are male and sixteen students are female.
Participants do not receive compensation in any form. Materials The materials for this study of bystander effect in an elevator consisted of two files holding a stack of paper, two data recording sheet (for a male and a female), a stopwatch, and an elevator. The data recording sheet had several columns, which were: gender of participant, if they helped, time, amount of confederates present. A stopwatch on one of the confederates’ phone was used. Procedure After waiting for an elevator, participants unknowingly enter the elevator with two or five confederates.
Once the elevator doors close and the elevator is in motion, one of the confederates drops a pile of papers. As the papers fall, a second confederate starts a clock on their smartphone. All other confederates must remain uninterested in the confederate that drops their papers. After the elevator, has arrived at the chosen floor, the participant exits through the door and their test concludes. One of the confederates records the data of the gender of participant, whether the participant helped or not, number of confederate present and the time it took to help. Afterwards, the confederates’ setup for next participant.
This experiment was repeated 32 times with 16 times having a male confederate dropping the paper and then 16 times with a female confederate. The confederates made sure that only one participant was experimented on each time. Results A 2 X 2 between-subjects ANOVA was conducted with time as the dependent variable and the number of confederates (two/five) and gender (female/male) as the independent variables.
The results indicated that there was no significant main effect for the number of confederates, F(1,32) = 0. 287 p>. 05, partial ? 2 = . 01, with those having one confederates (M =1. , SD = 1. 83) reporting more help than four confederates (M = 1. 38, SD = 2. 02). There was also no significant main effect for the droppers’ gender, F(1,32) = 0. 083, p > . 05, partial ? 2 = . 003, with those having a male dropper (M = 1. 67, SD = 2) reporting more than a woman dropper (M = 1. 47, SD = 1. 86). There was also no significant interaction between dropper’s gender and number of confederates, F(1,32) = 0. 097, p > . 05, partial ? 2 = . 003.
The chi-square test of independence showed there was no significant relationship between dropper’s gender and help time, ? 1, N = 32) = . 000a, p > . 05, Cramer’s V = . 000. Given the gender of the dropper, female or male, 50% of the time the dropper got helped. The second chi-square of independence showed there was no significant relationship between number of confederate present and help time, ? 2 (1, N = 32) = 2. 000, p > . 05, Cramer’s V = . 250. Given the choice of having one or four confederate’s present, 62. 5% were likely to help with only one confederate present and 37. 5% were likely to help with only four confederates.
Discussion The first main effect hypothesis stated that the dropper’s gender will impact the likelihood of participants helping. We could not find a significance for any gender but saw that there was more help for a male dropper than a female dropper. This was opposite of what we expected. However, Cowie noted that females tend to intervene less in situations as they get older than males (2014). The gender of the dropper played no significance on whether people choose to help or not. The second main effect hypothesis stated that the number of confederates present would impact if participants decided to help.
We, also, saw no significance between one or four confederates present. However, there was more help when the dropper had only one confederate present than four. The interaction hypothesis stated that the dropper’s gender and number of confederate had an impact on the likelihood of participants helping. The results of both chi-square of independence showed no significance of the dropper’s gender and the number of confederates. There was also no difference in the dropper’s gender, with it being 50-50 chance of helping.
There was a difference, although not significant, with 62. of participants helping with one confederate present than 37. 5% helping with four confederates. Although this research was carefully prepared, there were some unavoidable limitations. First, the gender of the confederates was all female. We do not know if participants would have reacted differently having more males around or a mixture of females and males. Secondly, would be that the data was collected on two different days at different time. The first day was on a Friday, where there was significantly less students present on campus and in the morning.
The second time was during the week, where more students were present and done later on in the evening. This caused researchers to not view an accurate sample of impact on JMU student body. Third, would be diversity of confederates. The majority of the confederates were Caucasian with the exclusion of one being African-American. The impact on the race of the confederates present could have influenced the participants’ decision on whether to help or not. Overall, this factors could have skewed our data and would have been better if they were corrected.