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Outline and evaluate two or more theories of bystander behaviour.

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Outline and evaluate two or more theories of altruism and/or bystander behaviour. Within pro and anti-social behaviour, there is the idea of bystander behaviour. This refers to how people react in different situations. In times of need some people freeze, some act, some scream with fear, and these are all examples of bystander behaviour. There are a few theories as to why people will behave as they do when presented with different situations. When considering bystander behaviour, it is important to hold a particular view of altruism in mind-that people helping is, essentiality a selfish action, for example Aronson et al., 1997, "That was the very essence of selfishness. I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and let that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs." (Please note this is an adaptation of the original research) The first such model was devised by Piliavin et al., 1981, and was called the bystander-calculus model, or cost/arousal model. It attempted to explain some of the psychological and cognitive factors involved in bystander behaviour. This model only applies to emergency situations. It states that, when faced with an emergency, a bystander goes through five stages. ...read more.


If they do not intervene, their empathy and therefore distress cannot be lowered. Personal costs are feelings of self-blame or lack of respect that could occur from not helping, and the possibility of these increase with severity of situation. This model says that the higher the reward and the lower the cost, the more likely the person to act. The bystander-calculus model is a good model for bystander behaviour, as it considers a wide range of factors. It combines physiological, psychological, emotional and rational factors to form a solid idea of why people act the way they do. Critics of this model say that it is "too mechanical", that the idea of a set order of events before a bystander acts is not correct, as it does not account for people who say they act without thinking, on the spot. It also does not allow for true altruism at all, stating that there is always some selfish motive involved. Piliavin later admitted this was wrong, saying "true altruism- acting with the goal of benefiting another- does exist and is part of human nature." Another model of bystander behaviour is Latane and Darley's cognitive model. ...read more.


These include diffusion of responsibility- if there are other bystanders present, one individual will not feel that the responsibility to act is solely upon them-, audience inhibition- fear of messing up in front of other people-, and social influence- the idea that an individual will conform to the majority, even in the case of an emergency when the majority stand and do nothing. In support of this model, there is a lot of wide-ranging research evidence, both experimental and real world, that support it. Also, findings related to different situations do not contradict this model, but rather refine it, ie bystanders with special expertise, eg a doctor, do not suffer audience inhibition. Critics have described it as being too reductionalist, trying to condense a large amount of complex ideas about human behaviour into five stages. Also, compared to the bystander-calculus model, it can be viewed as simplistic, not taking into account too many factors. Both models have their strong points, but both are fundamentally too reductionalist. It seems doubtful that human nature can be accurately predicted in models as such, there are too many variables and factors involved in different situations and individuals that have an effect. However, these models are useful to give us some idea as to human workings and may help predict how people will respond. Kyle Mohamed ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)


The writer has covered some major points and models for this particular subject and has gone into quite a lot of detail. The score for this essay could be improved with some better planning. It lacks a good introduction to the subject and the writing style is too complicated. A good start would be to define altruism and explain what is known as the bystander effect. The main body of the essay could then go on to introduce, discuss and criticise the two models. It would be best to start with the Latane and Darley model first and then go on to the bystander calculus model.

Score 3*

Marked by teacher Linda Penn 05/09/2013

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