Apathy Essay

This essay has a total of 2461 words and 8 pages.

Apathy

As you wait to cross the street, a blind man is standing in front of you. Without warning,
he begins to cross the street even though the light has not changed in his favor. He seems
to be in no danger until you see a car about a half mile away speeding towards him.
Totally unaware of the situation, the man continues walking across the street. As you and
many others watch in horror he is struck by the car. Although every single one of you had
plenty of time to rescue him, you just watched, hoping that someone else would do it.
After all, you don't know him so it's really none of your business. This is what is
referred to as "bystander apathy". People close enough to see, hear and possibly touch one
another are socially distant and totally indifferent to the fact that another human being
may be dying, in immediate danger, or asking for help. This extremely sad urban problem is
just that- a problem of cities. The likelihood of this occurring increases with the number
of people present and it is probable that there will be many people to witness an event
when it happens in high density cities. Urban sociologists, social psychologists, and
criminologists have argued for years that the size of cities is directly related to the
amount of "social pathology" they contain. The legal consequences are not severe. Unless
an individual is a certified medical doctor, they have no obligation in Alberta to help
anyone in need. So generally, they don't. The personal consequences may be more severe.
Feelings of guilt and regret may follow an event, especially if it ends fatally or if the
individual feels that they could have done something significant. Because of this, people
attempt to convince themselves and others that they were justified in their inaction
because "it wasn't their place", "I didn't want to do it alone", or "I didn't want to get
involved." Excuses like this often stem from fears of being seen as abnormal, possible
physical harm, public embarrassment, possible involvement in police procedures, lost work
days and jobs, and other dangers. Urban people are very concerned with the way they appear
to others. Anything that may separate them from the "in-group" of society is usually seen
as too risky to take part in. And strangely enough, helping people in need is seen as one
of these risks. A study was done on seminarian students to see how likely they were to
stop for a young student in distress. As reviewed by Brenner and Levin, out of the total
40 that passed the distressed student, only 16 stopped to help. Before allowing the
students to come upon the confederate in need, the experimenters presented students with
either writings about job applications, or the Good Samaritan Parable. This proved to have
no effect on the likelihood of the student offering to help. I find this somewhat
perplexing; one would think that especially after being shown text about helping someone
in need as being "the right thing to do" that they would stop because of the guilt that
may plague them. But the study showed that the main factor determining the choice to stop
was whether or not they were in a hurry. I personally doubt that there would be any
repercussions for being late if the reason was helping a fellow seminarian in need. But
this study proves that people think otherwise. It has also been proposed that
territoriality and social distance may be good predictors of willingness to prevent
criminal behaviours. As presented by Gillis and Hagan, the disorganization theorists
(Simmel et al.) claim that the unwavering activity of urban areas results in psychological
withdrawal from others as a way to avoid stimulation overload. People in cities are no
more likely to help neighbors than complete strangers, but their "social accountability"
holds them responsible for friends and family. According to Gillis and Hagan, people are
more willing to intervene when the violation is against a person than when it is against
property. This is most probable because people perceive the property damage as less
serious than attacking the person. But for both the property and personal attacks, people
indicated that likelihood of intervention was related to proximity to home. Willingness to
intercede is more likely when the crime was occurring near a persons' home. This is known
as "space-associated intolerance" and supports Gillis and Hagan's hypothesis that
territoriality plays an important part in intervention. Possibly the reason that the Kitty
Genovese homicide was seen as so horrific is because not only did it violate the law, but
the norms concerning territoriality as well. Because Gillis and Hagan's data come from
questionnaires, the subjects may respond the way that they believe that they should act,
rather than the way that they would act. I believe that without a similar incident
actually occurring to someone, that it would be almost impossible to say what you would
do. Testers are requesting emotions that you most likely have never experienced before.
Darley and Latane argue that persons witnessing emergency situations, especially
frightening ones, experience conflict. Logical or irrational fears may get in the way of
obvious humanitarian norms about helping the victim. In certain circumstances, any norms
favoring intervention may be weakened, leading bystanders to choose the easiest resolution
to the conflict; by looking the other way. One such circumstance may be the presence of
other onlookers. The responsibility of helping the victim may be diffused among the
observers, which limits the potential blame that can be placed on any one individual. As
well, the thoughts of the possibilities of someone already doing something about it
lessens the individuals feeling of responsibility. If the case is that there is only one
person present at the scene of the attack, any possible help must come from that person.
Although there is the option to ignore the need, pressure to intervene mounts on them.
When a person perceives themselves as the only person who know of the victims' condition
they are much more likely to respond, and to do so quickly than if in a group (more than
one other bystander). Also stated by Darley and Latane is that the victim is equally as
likely to get help from two bystanders as one. Responding time is also critical to the
likelihood of action. Failure to respond to a situation after approximately 3 minutes
greatly decreases the likelihood of any type of intervention, including reporting the
incident or asking for help. Although we all may wish to think that a person's moral
behaviour is separate from thoughts about rewards and punishments, evidence proves
otherwise. People's fears of being punished for not intervening are greatly lessened when
within a group because the blame cannot be placed directly on them. Variations in sex and
medical competence of other bystanders has no important affect on response. Darley and
Latane's study contradicts the bias that males tend to assume more responsibility and take
more initiative than females in giving help to dependent others. Females are shown to
respond just as quickly as male subjects. Darley and Latane state that although subjects
may have failed to intervene or report the emergency, that there were few signs of apathy
and indifference thought to distinguish "unresponsive bystanders". When asked about the
incident afterwards, subjects often responded with concern as to whether or not the victim
was "all right." Many of the seemingly apathetic subjects showed physical signs of
nervousness, possibly more than the subjects who did respond. Darley and Latane argue that
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