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Investigated the Social Inhibition of Helping (aka

the Bystander Effect)

General helping behavior in the context of nonemergency settings
Influence of stereotyped gender roles on
helping behavior across geographic locations

As the number of bystanders increases, the

likelihood that any given individual will render aid
Robust finding in the field of social psychology (i.e.,
It is well-replicated).

Most often examined in the context of emergencies

What explains this phenomenon?

Three underlying mechanisms are postulated:

Audience inhibition
The bystander does not want to be embarrassed.
(It may not really be an emergency.)

Social Influence

Ambiguous situations can engender pluralistic ignorance.

(People seek clarification by observing others reactions.)

Diffusion of responsibility
Bystanders share accountability for inaction/non-intervention.
(I dont have to feel as guilty because no one helped.)

Researchers predicted a main effect of sex on helping

Males will help more and receive less help than females.
Geographic location would moderate the effect of gender on
helping behavior (i.e. There would be an interaction
between gender and location):
Males in the South will be more likely to help females.
Females in the South will be less likely to help males.
Greater numbers of bystanders would reduce the likelihood
of any individual helping Diffusion of responsibility



2x2x3 factorial, observational, field study

IV #1: Sex of experimenter (Male vs. Female)
IV #2: Sex of bystander (Male vs. Female)
IV #3: Geographic location (Three cities: Columbus, Ohio;
Seattle Washington; Atlanta, Georgia)

145 experimenters 91 men and 54 women

Dropped coins & pencils in elevators in public buildings
Recorded the number & gender of people present in the
elevator and the number & gender of people who helped
Conducted 1,497 trials
4,813 participants

A strong main effect of sex of bystander

Male bystanders were more likely to help than females.
35% of male bystanders helped pick up dropped objects.
Only 20% female bystanders helped (p < .001).

An equally strong main effect of sex of experimenter.

Male experimenters were less likely to receive help.

Only 19% of bystanders helped male experimenters.

36% of bystanders helped female experimenters (p < .001).

In other words:

Male victims (i.e. experimenters) received aid from one

or more bystanders during 43% of their trials.
Female victims received help from at least one
bystander during 67% of their trials (F(1, ) = 130.74, p <

A small interaction between sex of bystander and sex of

Participants helped experimenters of the opposite sex
more often(31%) than experimenters of the same sex
(24%) (p < .05).
This result is skewed due to the prevalence of male help for
females in Atlanta, Georgia.

No main effect of location:

Rates of helping behavior were consistent across all three


There was a strong interaction between location and sex of

experimenter and bystander on helping behavior.

Gender disparities in helping behavior were pronounced in the

The probability of a male helping a female increased
dramatically in Atlanta (70%) compared with Columbus (32%)
and Seattle (39%).
The likelihood of a female helping a male decreased
significantly in Atlanta (7%) compared with Columbus (23%)
and Seattle (16%).

There was a main effect of group size on helping


Larger group size was associated with decreased helping

behavior among bystanders (F[5,] = 7.88, p < .001).
The more bystanders present, the less likely it was for any
individual to help.

This effect was consistent across sexes Both men &

women were less likely to help as group size increased:
Sex x Size interaction: (F[5,] = .41, n.s.)

Slight but significant tendency for people to imitate

each others actions (social modeling)

Actual measured results were higher than expected


Women were more likely to receive help than men

Based upon social norms of men helping other people,

especially women
This social norm was more exaggerated in Atlanta

As the number of bystanders increased, individual

willingness to help decreased

Possibly due to increased difficulty to move to help as the

elevator crowds
Effect was the same in both large and small elevators
Diffusion of responsibility

Latan, B., & Dabbs, J. M., Jr. (1975). Sex, group size
and helping in three cities. Sociometry, 38, 180-194.