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Discuss research relating to bystander behaviour.

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Lyndsey Paterson Discuss research relating to bystander behaviour (24 marks) The murder of Kitty Genovese and the bystander behaviour that was apparent that night triggered a great deal of research to explain bystander behaviour. Latane & Darley suspected that the fact that the number of possible helpers was so large might actually have contributed to their lack of intervention. They processes that might explain the reluctance of others to 'get involved' in situations such as the Kitty Genovese incident. The Diffusion of Responsibility explanation suggests that the more witnesses there are to a person needing help, the less anyone witness feels responsible for giving help. Latane & Darley conducted a lab based experiment using male university students seated in individual cubicles connected by an intercom system, believing they had come to take part in a discussion on collage life. ...read more.


Latane & Draley also proposed the Pluralistic Ignorance theory. This hypothesis suggests that when making a decision about whether or not to help, we look to see what other bystanders are doing. If other bystanders appear to act as if the situation is an emergency situation and help the victim, we are likely to do the same. If no one else offers to help we are unlikely to offer help as well. In the smoke filled room experiment participants were invited to take part in what they thought was a psychological experiment. While waiting for it to 'begin' they were asked to fill out a questionnaire in a waiting room that is filled with smoke. In the first condition they were in the room on they're own, and then in a variety of conditions including an increasing number of confederates, who acted like it was not an emergency situation. ...read more.


The colour of the victim made no difference to the frequency of help they received. This real life study demonstrates that personal characteristics of the victim appear to play a more important part in whether to be a bystander or not. This study is much higher in ecological validity than those conducted by Latane & Darley as it was conducted in a real-life situation. Most of the above research has been carried out in the USA. The dominant approach in the USA is based on self-interest, rather than concern for others. There is evidence that this selfish approach is not dominant in other cultures, e.g. a study by Whiting & Whiting found large differences in the prevalence of altruistic behaviour form one culture to another. Darley said in 1991; "in the United States, and perhaps in all advanced societies, it is generally accepted that the true and basic motive of human action is self-interest". ...read more.

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Response to the question

The candidate hear clearly has a very good idea about the role of bystander behaviour in social psychology, as well as the theory of Diffusion of Responsibility as proposed by Latane & Darley. The candidate uses this theory well and ...

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Response to the question

The candidate hear clearly has a very good idea about the role of bystander behaviour in social psychology, as well as the theory of Diffusion of Responsibility as proposed by Latane & Darley. The candidate uses this theory well and implements good analysis of the procedure and results of a variety of studies whilst describing them. This integrated approach makes the answer more succinct and confident-sounding. It also gives the impression the answer was pre-planned, and so indicates a lot of time and care put into the answer by the candidate.

I would argue that perhaps a look into the reasons for Piliavin, Rodin & Piliavin's study into subway samaritanism could be implemented into the answer, citing the development of the Arousal-Cost-Reward-Model they proposed after the investigation, and also the rather interesting results found with regards to the lack of Diffusion of Responsibility inside the subway carriages (they found the number of passengers in the carriages to have no effect on the intervention time). This would be a good way to evaluate Latane & Darley's study because it would show an ability to use updated empirical research in order to test theories that may be out-dated and/or found not to exist in certain social situations.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis shown here is good, and it is integrated well into the rest of the essay, helping the fluidity of the structure and the essay overall. Perhaps a little more detail could be given when speaking about Piliavin's study, and a little more clarity on the creation of investigation (what type of research was it? What were the conditions? Approximately how many participants were involved? etc.) Elsewhere, there is a good use of the Latane & Darley study and the corresponding theory, and the evaluation in the final paragraph nicely rounds off the essay by consulting all of the research and criticising them for their ethnocentric bias.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is very good. The candidate demonstrates a clear understanding of how to shape text in order to convey meaning clearly, even when complex vocabulary like that which is expected of an A Level psychology candidate needs to be incorporated. Every use is appropriate and doesn't feel clunky or wrongly-applied, and this helps create an idea of confidence about the work in the examiner's head, and so spell-checks and proof-reads are always good to ensure the optimum in written expression for the examiner.

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