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Discussion Question

Discussion Question

Respond to at least one of your colleagues in the following way:

If you were Brenda, how might you have solicited help from one of the many bystanders? Your explanation must be informed by social psychology theory and research.


n the scenario provided about Brenda who was walking home, with music blasting in her ears, and was pushed hard by someone into a muddy ravine, diffusion of responsibility would best explain why no onlooker helped her.

The bystander effect is a theory that is used to explain the decrease of an individual helping when passive bystanders are present in an emergency situation (Darley and Latane, 1968). The diffusion of responsibility helps us understand the bystander effect theory. The diffusion of responsibility refers to the tendency to distribute the responsibility amongst the number of bystanders. This increases the likelihood the individual believes another bystander has taken action in the emergency situation. In Brenda’s example, she had individuals who were “onlookers” but no one was helping as she fell. The bystanders could have thought that the moral obligation to help was shared, or that someone else will or had offered help. Another explanation could be the lack of direct commands being given to the “onlookers.” If a bystander or Brenda yells “get help” to a group of  bystanders, the bystanders can interpret it to mean another individual as the responsibility is shared. In this situation, it is important to be specific as to who should have what task assigned to them in an emergency situation.

Another explanation is the evaluation apprehension, which refers to the fear of being judged by others (Emeghara, 2020). This is when the bystander is afraid of what others may say, publicity, or being superseded. Also, the possibility of facing legal consequences for unwanted help. In the scenario, we weren’t told what was being said except that she had the music really loud in her ears. Bystanders could have questioned if she wanted help or if she would have pressed charges for helping her if anything happened in the process. Acting in public could be a fear, similar to public speaking, that can cause onlookers to not help Brenda but rather watch.

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