The students were placed in a room—either alone, with two strangers or with three strangers to complete a questionnaire while they waited for the experimenter to return. Actors are used to act out typically non-emergency situations while the cameras capture the reactions and actions of innocent bystanders.
An article in the September issue of American Psychologist concluded that the story is largely misrepresented mostly due to the inaccuracies repeatedly published in newspaper articles and psychology textbooks. Social influence plays a significant role in determining how quickly individuals notice that something is wrong and define the situation as an emergency.
In situations where the need for help is unclear, bystanders often look to others for clues as to how they should behave. Bystander effect.
These include: trivialisationdissociationembarrassment association, busy working priority, compliance with a competitive norm, audience modelling, and responsibility transfer.
Psychologists Scott Fraser and Andrew Colman presented evidence for the defense using research from social psychology. In one experimentresearchers found that bystanders were more likely to help an injured person if that person was wearing a football jersey of a team the bystander liked as opposed to a team the bystander did not like.
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In situations with low potential danger, significantly more help was given when the person was alone than when they were around another person.
Ross, the effects of increased responsibility on bystander intervention were studied by increasing the presence of children. The second reason is the need to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways.
This is an example of pluralistic ignorance or social proof.