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Accountability and Responsibility

THE BYSTANDER EFFECT:  Bystander – person who is not an active participant in a situation – they are standing by and witnessing

“If you are in a crowd and you look and see that everyone is doing nothing, then nothing becomes the norm.”     Drew Carberry, A director on the National Counsel of Crime Prevention


The state of being accountable, liable, or answerable, taking responsibility for one’s actions

Diffusion of responsibility:
The lessening of a sense of individual responsibility for a task when responsibility is shared among members
of a group.

The Bystander Effect:
The term bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. When an emergency situation occurs, observers are more likely to take action if there are few
or no other witnesses.


On Friday, March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was returning home from work. As she approached her apartment entrance, she was attacked and stabbed by a man later identified as Winston Moseley.

Despite Genovese’s repeated calls for help, none of the dozen or so people in the nearby apartment building who heard her cries called police to report the incident.

The attack first began at 3:20 AM, but it was not until 3:50 AM that someone first contacted police. Kitty Genovese was raped and stabbed to death.

Kitty was murdered on the street outside her New York City apartment after loud shouting was heard – 38 people witnessed the murder but did nothing to stop it.
Psychologists have long been interested in our unwillingness to get involved in uncomfortable situations even if someone’s personal safety is at risk
The assault continued for half an hour while the 38 bystanders watched without intervening or notifying the police. Four years after Genovese was murdered, psychologists, John Darley and Bibb Latane, wanted to identify the factors that influence bystanders’ decisions to get involved in public situations.

Influences of the Bystander Effect:

Self Perception:

People have a tendency see themselves as bystanders in such situations rather than as ACTORS

ACTORS are people who become active participants in a situation

Whether or not we intervene in a situation depends on the cues that we get from the participants and other bystanders

Relation to Genovese case?

It suggests that if one bystander had joined in to try to help her, others might well have come forward too.

Bystander – person who is not an active participant in a situation– they are standing by and witnessing, additional influences of the Bystander Effect:

Diffusion of responsibility
Social cues/Social norms
Diffusion of Responsibility : the more people in the group, the less likely individuals are to act b/c they think that the responsibility rests with all other bystanders as opposed to when they are the only ones witnessing the situation
People will act differently in various situations…

Factors that Cause People to Act

Morals – parents taught you the right thing to do – i.e. damaging someone’s property
Damage done in their community
Fear – don’t want to get in trouble for not helping
Personal – if you were in that situation, you would want help
Stereotypes – racial profiling, gender, age
Pressure from others – conformity

Factors that Cause People NOT to Act:

Fear – personal safety, mistake (hurting someone…, judgment)
“Not my business” – i.e. conflict in a family
Lack information on the situation
Don’t know people involved
Assume someone else will do it – diffusion of responsibility
Inconvenient – busy, don’t want to get involved, don’t have time…

When Bystanders Join In:

Whether or not we intervene in a situation depends on the
cues that we get from the participants and other bystanders

The Bystander Effect and the Relation to the Holocaust?

The Holocaust is a great example of the bystander effect because the towns and cities near the concentration camps knew fully well of the atrocities and horror inside the camps. These citizens could smell the camps from as far as twenty miles away before finding them. Therefore, the mayhem could not be ignored. The populations made no effort to
stop the torture, yet they were forced to clean up the corpses and bury them in mass graves. Germans were also victims of cultural ethical relativism, believing that if their government thought that genocide was ethically relative behavior in their culture, then they should comply.

In other cases, with more people, individuals are less likely to take responsibility. They assume that someone else will intervene.

Reducing Bystander Effect:

Bystanders know one another.
Witnesses have special bond to the victim.
Bystanders think that the victim is especially dependent on them.
Bystanders have considerable training in emergency intervention.
Witnesses have knowledge of the bystander effect.

What Would You Do?

Aronson, E., (2012) The Social Animal(11th ed). New York: Worth Publishers
Myers, D., (2015) Exploring Social Psychology(7th ed). McGraw Hill.


  1. Read and understood


  2. Yasmin says:

    Read and understood


  3. Navy says:

    Read and somewhat understood.
    Accountability is somewhat like medical assistant have responsibility of taking patient into the exam room and have to complete full vitals signs for the Doctor patient before seeing them. That goes for blood draw. Some patient would draw their blood before seeing the Doctor to know if they have an unusual results.


  4. andreachavezlopez says:

    read and understood.


  5. Read and understood videos also helped


  6. sheyla4801 says:

    read and somewhat understood


  7. Sayomi (Grace) says:

    Read and fully understood. However, I would like a discussion in class about the bystander effect. I have questions in regards to the different factors that contributes this concept.


  8. Calvin Cannon says:

    As I commented in the videos, no one wants to be accounted for or have the least bit of responsibility.


  9. Melissa M says:

    read and mostly understood but the videos helped me better


  10. Lydia Li says:

    Read and mostly understood. I’ve watched a lot of social experiments about the problem with bystanders and situations where people are tested and the goal of the video is to see who would stand up for the victim.


  11. Olivia Filipowich says:

    read and understood


  12. JingRen says:

    Read and mostly understood. After reading what had happened to Genovese, and watching the two videos, I really hope there are more actors than bystanders in our world.


  13. Harman P Singh says:

    i watched the videos and read and i find it sad how this is true especially when numbers are greater, people are able to make a greater impact/ effect on the situation but choose not to.


  14. lillyanamayo says:

    Read and somewhat understood the basics. I found the “What Would You Do?” video very interesting since I expected more people to interfere. However, I do believe those who were bystanders avoided the situation because they assumed the girl was just being disobedient, or maybe because they thought someone fearless would interfere.


  15. Fernando L Sousa says:

    I would argue that the guy had a knife maybe thats why they didnt want to get involved fear of injury but they could of called the cops thats pretty insane maybe the era had to do alot of with their mindsets but fear can be crippling for sure


  16. BADR BEHLOUL says:

    When i watched both videos i really felt bad about how people sometimes don’t care about others . For the first video i just can not believe that they were 38 people and nobody reacted . I am sure that if i was there i would have jumped on him and let here go . I am sure that in my country this would have never happened never ever actually for both video this would have never happened in my country . I think the people here are scared of everything everybody think about himself . I just cant believe that a women passed right in front of the little girl and she just walked like that hearing her saying that he is not her dad and she kept walking . I kind of felt bad about both situation . The reason why i said that this would have never happened in my country because if a murder tried to kill someone in the street and specially a women and with the presence of 38 people in my country . im sure they would have took off his head before the police get there . Also another reason why all this is happening is because there are a lot of laws in America this is why people are scared to get involved but this doesn’t mean we don’t have to blame those people of course we have to because being a human and a citizen you can not let things like that pass without doing something and specially for a women and a little girl this is unbelievable .


  17. Stephanie Cabral says:

    Its hard to imagine that so many people could stand there while someone is being mistreated or murdered. Fear should not stop anyone from helping another person in need, especially if that persons life is at risk. With all thats going on in the world watching these two videos made me feel more unsafe because sometimes you walk alone at night and you hope to see people who might help you if anything happens, but after seeing these to videos you wonder if anyone would even help. I understand that fear plays a huge part in the way a person reacts to a situation, it takes over you and makes you do the opposite of what you want to do or should do, however in situations like these we need to set our fears aside and put ourselves in that persons situation. Their fear must be greater than ours and we must do something to help them. I don’t understand how they could live with this in their conscious because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing I didn’t help someone.


  18. Dritan Memo says:

    Both Videos are really sad and disturbing. Kitty Genovese case is a really sad reality that we still find nowadays. In my opinion most of the time people just don’t want to involve in situations that don’t touch their loved ones nor their interests. I would of course wished for someone to have helped and I am 100% sure that thinks would have been different and maybe saved her life. The second video it is really shocking to me as well. I cant imagine how can people can be this cold toward a situation like this. Humans are a really interesting kind. It made me feel way much better when I saw those guys in action, also the old lady ready to call 911. It gave me hope that there are plenty of good people out there that can really make a difference in this world.


  19. Demetrius Oviedo says:

    Kitty Genovese: just plain sad that people saw her struggling, witnessed the whole situation, and didnt even bother to make a phone call to police. I understand that approaching a guy with a dangerous weapon causes you to fear for your own life, but these people didn’t have to do that. Simply could’ve called in the comfort of their home. The time span is just ridiculous. This was a situation that could’ve been easily avoided. I mean the lady screamed out loud at 3am. Out of 38 people I’m sure she was heard.

    What would you do?: this video was disturbing. I just don’t understand how people can just walk by a 7year old girl in the act of a kidnap. They did absolutely nothing which is scary. It amazes me at how confident one can be to think “oh someone else would help” while watching a terrified little girl. I am curious though, if those men that helped were alone would they have acted the same ?


  20. Jessica Acosta says:

    Kitty Genovese: It is sad to see someone in danger and so many people witnessing but doing nothing about it. It is more sad to realize someone could have saved her life by simplify calling for help without having to physically tried stopping it. Putting myself in the witnesses shoes I would understand why you could have been in fear of stepping in but if you put yourself in Kittys shoes wouldn’t you want help? I sure would. I would hope for someone to help in any way possible! Not just sit there and watch a tragedy happen.

    What would you do?: I don’t understand how someone can see someone in possible danger not to mention a little girl and continue to walk away. The first guy walking away with his son as they are looking back to do nothing. What if it would have been his little boy!? Atleast there are people who will step up to the bad guy. Really great to see people without fear of getting involved and doing the right thing. The way they ran after and spread around to help the girl was amazing to watch. Even if I don’t have kids, I would never just watch a tragedy happen in my eyes and do nothing especially a defenseless young one. I would do all I could wether its yell for help or chase after someone myself. Good to know not everyone is a bystander!


  21. Maria Palma says:

    The Kitty case was quite shocking and the play of so many people watching yet not doing anything is a terrifying thing to hear where everyone is just assuming someone else will take care of it and who would rather not have to face the problem, and at the end of the day it had cost Kitty her life. If someone would have just called ahead of time or especially the neighbor at the top of the stairs to even try to scare off the guy it could all have been avoided and she would still be alive today with her friend. For the case with the little girl I’ve seen experiments like this being done and its usually the same result where they assume someone else would help the little girl which is always more likely that the less people there are the more someone is willing to help that person because they think “well who else will help her if not me I’m the only one here”. It was great to see not only those two men but someone getting out of her car just to help and the lady calling 911, and the main lesson at the end was even if its a small action all those people had joined in and took action to save this little girl. Although it was assumed that the little girl could have been just acting up for all those people it truly was better to be safe than sorry especially in those situations and it did also bring be slight tears to know people are willing to help and do the right thing especially now.


  22. Gary Lok says:

    The first video that I watched about Kitty Genovese was very sad to see that no one had came in to help the girl that was screaming for help. They could’ve saved her if they had acted on that situation earlier. What shocked me the most in that video was that no one even bothered to go help her or even call the police when the attacker left. The second video on what would you do is that people just looked back as the little girl was screaming. No one bothered to help this little girl except two people. It was frightening to me that only a few people will be willing to help out someone else while other people just watch.


  23. Daniela Oronda says:

    Watching the first video about Kitty Genovese was actually pretty scary and sad to see. It was scary to see because a lot of people just stood there and saw what was going on. If someone would of been brave enough and would of acted fast enough then maybe she still would of been alive and would of survived that attack. But the sad reality is that when people decided to call for help it was a little to late as she was pronounced dead on her way to the hospital. As in for the second video it’s actually really shocking to see that very few people act upon the fact that a child is screaming for help and is saying that, thats not her father and to see that nobody does anything is just beyond words. It’s scary to know that your kid could be taken away from you in the matter of seconds specially in a public place. I feel like a lot of people don’t want to act about the situation because they don’t want to get themselves involved. Another reason why they also might not get involved is because they are scared to speak up or act. One of the first things i thought about if i was in that situation and i was to act would be what if this man had a gun in the matter on seconds he can pull it out and kill me. But in regards to all this i feel like people should at least should speak up and not hesitate and question the fact that this little girl is screaming for help. If you don’t want to act physically then you should at least call 911. we should act fast so that way we can help save peoples lives.


  24. Erikka Turner says:

    Kitty Genovese: What makes this case sad is the fact that she scream out for help and there was no help. Then he came back to finished the job and people stood by and watched him. Unfortunately the bystander effect stills happens everyday if it is domestic violence or a fight in the streets or store. For me I have called the cops when I saw someone was being hit by a domestic partner. Sometime you need to get involved you could save a life. In 2016 someone video tape the aftermath of a young woman’s life. As she laid in the street people just stood around her never called the cops til someone asked if they did or not. No one asked for a sheet to cover her. Others just walk passed like it was normal. This is not normal.

    What would do: As a mother of two daughters this shook me to my core. The fact some people did nothing however, there were some people like the first three guys and the lady that we didn’t see that went into action without hesitation. The other day I met Carlos Arredondo he was the guy that ran toward the bombing at the marathon. Without hesitation he help save some people lives that day. We need to do more than stand by waiting for some else to do it.


  25. Cassandra Yoyo says:

    Kitty Genovese(video #1) :

    People fear man. They don’t want to get involved; once they get involved it then becomes their issue. People get caught up in their own lives that they ignore everything around them. They are who we call Selfish people. Selfish is not always a bad thing you guys. we can pursue something that we want to do, which is okay! but when we neglect our neighbors especially when they call for help is pure evil, selfish and cold hearted. We should really learn from these two videos and take action when necessary and don’t assume someone else will take initiative. BE THE 1ST

    What would you do? video( Video 2):

    My observation from this video is that, people who looked back at the action that was going on are people who seemed to be concerned for about 3-5 seconds; But once they turned back around, what they once saw starts to become the thing in the past. It no longer exist in their head. They gradually forget that it even happens until ONE DAY!!! they hear it on the news and they might reflect and think to themselves ” I could’ve done something to help her/him , I could’ve of prevented it from escalating ” BUT IT IS TOO LATE! YES YOU COULD’VE, SHOULD’VE , WOULD’VE DONE SOEMTHING ABOUT IT BUT YOU DIDNT CASE CLOSE !!!!



  26. Juliana Dos Santos says:

    The Kitty Genovese case is very scary as no one felt obligated to help. The neighbors who refused to get involved must have really wished that they could go back in time and help the poor girl And as for the child abduction experiment, I do agree that most people would have thought she was just being a kid but the tone of her voice and his aggression towards her made it obvious that something was wrong. People usually only help others if it is in their best interest and that is frightening.


  27. Jessica Strungis says:

    Shock!! Especially in the case of Kitty. In the second video i think alot of people may have very well have thought the little girl was just some disrespectful little brat. What I cant come to terms with is how anyone could watch another human being be brutalized and ultimately killed and then go to sleep at night. You would think instictively a person would call for help anonymously if they are fearful of repercussions.


  28. Anais Karamousayan says:

    Both videos left me in shock. It makes me really angry that people don’t help others when they can clearly see someone’s in trouble. Especially in the first video, the fact that 38 people witnessed an actual murder and no one did anything just makes me really sad because I would have definitely called the police for Kitty. It really frightens me because the bystander effect is definitely real and happens everyday. An example of the bystander effect that happened recently was the man who got assaulted on the United Airlines flight. I’m sure many of you have seen all the videos and one thing I noticed about the videos was that no one got up out of their seat the stop the plane attendants who were dragging a bleeding passenger forcefully off the flight. People were yelling and recording the incident but yet no one reached out to physically help. I know that if I was on that flight or in any of these situations I would do what I can to help because it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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