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Problems Of The Bystander Effect Essay

1157 words - 5 pages

It was chilly dawn on March 13th, 1964 that 28-year-old bar manager Catherine Kitty Genovese was walking home. While she was walking towards her house, a 29-year-old machine operator came out and stabbed her twice in the back. Catherine was frightened and desperately screamed for help. There were 38 citizens who watched the killer stabbing the woman, but no one called the police as they did not want to be involved in the situation. As a result, Catherine died while her urgent cries were unanswered by 38 witnesses (Martin Gansberg, 1964). After this tragedy, psychologists named the situation in which people do not offer any help to a victim when other individuals are around them as the Genovese syndrome (Meyers, 2010). The bystander effect, which is another name of the Genovese syndrome, emerged as a hot potato in several fields of study such as psychology, sociology, and ethics since it became much more rampant in modern society with the spread of the egoism. Some bystanders rationalize their decisions according to their comparison between the values of their own safety and others’. However, the bystander effect is an undesirable phenomenon as it degrades the moral level of overall society, destroys the system of social trust, and has negative influences on various social fields.
First of all, the bystander effect corrupts the moral level of the whole society. Moral levels of the society are determined by two main factors, which are moral conscience and moral consciousness. Moral conscience is an inborn faculty that assists in distinguishing right from wrong (May, 1983). This inner voice often makes a person feel guilty when he/she commits actions that go against moral values and leads the person to behave morally. For instance, people are conscience-stricken after saying words that hurt other people’s feelings and make a promise to themselves not to repeat the behavior again. However, the bystander effect lowers the moral standards of the society as it weakens the function of moral conscience. Bystanders feel less guilty for their ignorance towards a victim, as the moral responsibility for the situation is spread over many bystanders. There is little certainty that they will regret their behaviors since their moral conscience does not work effectively. Moreover, there is another factor that influences moral levels, which is moral consciousness. Compared to the moral conscience, moral consciousness is an acquired thought that forms ethical norms based on experience. There are moral rules that are implicitly agreed among the citizens to maintain the society in a stable condition. For instance, people agree that ‘lying’ is a deviant behavior as it breaks trust between the members of society. If an individual violates the rules for their certain desires, he/she gets criticized for his/her behavior since it is judged as immoral. The bad social reputation that a person will get for his/her immoral behavior prevents the person from violating the social...

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