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Would you intervene if you saw somebody being attacked?

In 1964 a 28-year-old woman named Kitty Genovese was raped and murdered in the street in Queens, New York. There were reputed to be 38 people who witnessed the attack, which lasted for more than half an hour, but nobody came to her aid.

The event entered the literature of psychology as the “bystander effect”, the theory being that people feel less responsibility to help strangers in trouble if there are plenty of other people in the area. There may also be the feeling that if nobody else is doing anything, the situation cannot be all that serious.

However, this theory has been questioned after research that has been done in the UK, The Netherlands and South Africa. This has shown that, in similar situations, people do intervene in 90% of cases. Sometimes only one person does so, but quite often more than one person tries to help.

The researchers also found that people are more likely to intervene the higher the number of other bystanders, which goes dead against the earlier theory. There was little difference as between occurrences in the three countries.

It would appear that people have a natural inclination to help others in trouble, which is reassuring!

  • Would you intervene if you saw somebody being attacked?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Would you be more likely to intervene if there were two other people with you?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Would you be more likely to intervene if there were ten people with you?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Would you be less likely to intervene if the attacker had a knife?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Would you be less likely to intervene if the attacker had a gun?

    • Yes
    • No

What do you think?

14 points
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Written by Indexer

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10 Comments

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  1. I would call the police immediately. These days even if I wanted to help I could either make the situation worse or wind up being killed myself but I would not just stand around and watch. I am the one who always has said when I hear about people behaving badly that I would like to knock them on the head with a skillet. Perhaps I should start carrying a skillet with me.

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