Effect of Group Membership in Emergency Situations
Order ID 53563633773 Type Essay Writer Level Masters Style APA Sources/References 4 Perfect Number of Pages to Order 5-10 Pages
Effect of Group Membership in Emergency Situations
Figure 12.1 Effect of Group Membership in Emergency Situations
In the Latane and Darley (1968) study, only 1 out of 10 subjects reported the smoke when paired with two unalarmed confederates. Seventy-five percent reported it when left alone.
We interpret situations differently depending on what we believe is the relationship of those involved in the situation. In an emergency involving a victim and an attacker, we are less likely to intervene when we believe there is a relationship between the individuals. A tragic example of this phenomenon occurred in the U.K. in 1993 when 2-year-old James Bulger was killed by two 10-year-old boys. James was kidnapped by the boys from a shopping mall and dragged 2 ½ miles to railroad tracks where he was killed. Many people saw the boys together and noticed little James’s distress but assumed it was two older brothers taking home a reluctant little brother. This type of interpretation and reaction was supported in research. When researchers staged an attack of a woman, three times as many people intervened when she said “I don’t know you” (65% intervened) to her attacker than when she said “I don’t know why I ever married you” (19% intervened) (Shetland & Straw, 1976).
Step 3: Taking Responsibility for Helping
Figure 12.2 Effect of Group Size on the Likelihood of Responding in an Emergency
Based on Latane and Darley (1970).
Once we have interpreted an event as an emergency, we may still not help if we fail to take responsibility for helping. In a study investigating this step to helping, research participants heard another participant apparently having an epileptic seizure in another room (Darley & Latane, 1968). One group of participants believed they were the only one hearing the seizure, another group that there was one other person besides them, and a third group believed that four others were also hearing the seizure. After 6 minutes, 85% of those who believed they were alone, 62% of those who thought there was one other person, and 31% of those who thought there were four other people went to find help. The individuals who did not seek help were still concerned. When the researchers went to get them at the end of the study, they showed signs of nervousness and asked about the condition of the person apparently having the seizure.
Having a larger group observing an emergency seems to inhibit helping. The responsibility for helping gets diffused, or parceled out, in large groups. In a group of four you might figure that someone else can take responsibility for helping, because you are not the only one hearing about the emergency. The result of this diffusion of responsibility is that less helping occurs with a larger population of bystanders. This phenomenon can be affected by whether or not the other bystanders are friends and by the gender composition of the group. In some situations, such as when a female group is confronted with an emergency involving a female victim, having a larger group can actually increase helping (Levine & Crowther, 2008).
Step 4: Deciding How to Help
Once we take responsibility for helping, we may still not help if we cannot decide how to help. If you see someone along the road with a car trouble, you have several options for helping. You could stop and see if you can fix the car yourself. You could call a repair shop or the police yourself or stop and offer your cell phone to the stranded motorist so they could call for help. Of course, you would only stop and fix the problem yourself if you knew how. Competence or training makes helping in this way of helping more likely. For example, individuals with Red Cross training in first aid were more likely than those who did not have such training to offer direct help to someone who appeared to be bleeding (Shetland & Heinold, 1985).
Step 5: Helping
Would you pick up this hitchhiker? Would your answer change if it were a woman? If it were at night? If you were alone?
Even if someone notices an event, interprets it as an emergency, takes responsibility, and decides how to help, that person may still fail to help in the end. One reason for lack of actual help is feeling embarrassed or self-conscious in the presence of other people. This reaction is called audience inhibition (Latane & Darley, 1970). (See Figure 12.2 for data on the effect of group size according to Latane and Darley’s research.) This type of inhibition applies to more than emergency situations involving helping. When a coupon for a free cheeseburger was available to riders in an elevator, these individuals were less likely to take a coupon when others were present (Petty, Williams, Harkins, & Latane, 1977). The presence of an audience makes us generally less willing to act.
Individuals may also fail to help if they determine that the costs outweigh the benefits of helping. For example, if you see a hitchhiker on the side of the highway, you may decide you are the only one who could help (the highway is deserted) and know how to help (give the person a ride), but decide that the potential costs to you are too great. If an individual decides the potential costs are too high and the potential benefits too low, they may decide not to help (Avdeyeva, Burgetova, & Welch, 2006; Morgan, 1978). The cost-benefit calculation may be, in part, responsible for the finding that in some dangerous situations, where the victim’s life may be in danger, greater helping has been found with larger groups (Fischer, Greitemeyer, Pollozek, & Frey, 2006).
In these types of situations, the benefit of potentially saving the life of the victim may outweigh the potential costs to the helper, and the group may actually protect the individual helper from harm from, for example, a large, potentially dangerous attacker. Within this cost-benefit calculation is also the costs of not helping. If people could help but do not, they may feel guilty or lose social status. Helping might bring praise or other rewards (Fritzsche, Finkelstein, & Penner, 2000; Piliavin, Dovidio, Gaertner, & Clark, 1981). If the benefits for helping were high, the costs of not helping were high, and the costs of helping were low, the logical thing would be to help.
Looking at the five steps together, we see that a person in need of help is less likely to get that help in a crowd than with one other person present. Kitty Genovese, who was murdered while 38 of her neighbors watched or listened, would have been more likely to get help if a neighbor knew, or believed, he or she was the only one to hear Kitty’s struggles. This combination of factors that makes helping less likely with more people present is called the bystander effect.
Reducing the Bystander Effect
To reduce the bystander effect, make it clear that you need help and what kind of help you need.
If you are the one in need of help, what should you do? Take a few minutes to consider before looking at the suggestions below.
Step 1: Make the emergency situation noticeable. The first step to helping is noticing something is happening, so if you are part of an emergency situation make that situation noticeable to others. Depending on the situation, yell, put up signs, light a flare, or wave your arms.
Step 2: Make it obvious that the event is an emergency. While bystanders might notice something is happening, they may not offer you help if they do not realize the event is actually an emergency. Individuals yelling “Help!” are more likely to get help than those who are silent (Shotland & Heinold, 1985). If others are present, remember the danger of pluralistic ignorance and do not rely on the nonverbal signals of others. Make friends with others and discuss whether you think an emergency situation is occurring. Remember that friends respond more quickly than strangers (Latane & Rodin, 1969). If you are the victim of an attack, remember that you are more likely to get help if bystanders believe your attacker is a stranger (Shotland & Straw, 1976).
Step 3: If you have an emergency situation, you want to be sure someone takes responsibility for providing help, so single someone out to help you. Point to someone, say his or her name if you know it, and ask that person specifically to provide help (Markey, 2000). If you have ever been through CPR training you know that one of the first things you are asked to do is point to someone specific and ask them to call 911 while you do CPR. The Red Cross knows about bystander research and has implemented the research findings in their training.
Steps 4 & 5: Make the type of help you need evident and do what you can to reduce costs and increase benefits. Individuals who know what help to provide will be more likely to actually provide the help. If you need someone to call 911, say so. If you need help changing a tire, make that clear as well. A clear task or instructions on what to do may help reduce audience inhibition. As we learned from Milgram’s studies of obedience, individuals who are acting on specific orders feel less responsible for their actions and, therefore, may feel less inhibition to help even when observed by others.
Relations Characterized by Altruism and Conciliation
When you look at daily behavior, people are continually doing things for other people when they don’t have to. Certain emotions like awe and compassion encourage people to commit to collective principles and become more devoted to their group. An example, certainly, is South Africa where ubuntu and sincere attempts at cooperation and communication after apartheid began to chip away at the antagonisms built by years of aggression and conflict.
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