13 March 2019

13th March 1964 - Bystander Non Intervention

On 13th March 1964, New York tavern manager Kitty Genovese was murdered as she returned home early in the morning. The story that appeared two weeks later in the New York Times said that none of the 38 witnesses did anything to help her over a period of 30 minutes. This shocked a world that knew we were getting less involved with our neighbours. The news story made its way into many introductory Psychology textbooks under the topic of 'bystander intervention' - a social psychological phenomena in which people are less likely to help if there are a lot of witnesses. This led to many psychology experiments into bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibility in crowds.

However it has become apparent in recent years that the original newspaper article did not tell the full story. One person did shout at the attacker. Others did call the police. There were some who didn't and the story was more about them. The New Yorker has the story behind this story .

Thanks to On This Day in Psychology by David Webb for the date.

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