Bystander Effect: The Stanford Experiment Coursework

What the experiment tells us about the way in which through which bystanders reply to a disaster when in a bunch

The 1971 Stanford mock jail experiment was essential in understanding bystander results as a result of not all jail guards have been hostile to the inmates within the mock jail. They had the ability to change the habits of their counterparts by stopping their torturous actions however opted not to take action. The bystander impact is often measured by how lengthy observers take to answer a disaster if in any respect they select to take action. At Stanford, no intervention was ever made by the great jail guards. In reality, for six lengthy days, none of them felt the duty to intervene and solely an outsider by the identify of Christina Maslach was daring sufficient to interrupt the cycle of this horrible experiment. (Zimbardo, 2007)

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The experiment supplies numerous perception into the bystander impact. First, as social psychologists have rightfully identified, most observers fail to help in emergency response as a result of they search social proof. In different phrases, they typically have a look at what others are doing after which make their selections based mostly on their colleagues. In the Stanford case, most guards together with the initiator of the experiment himself (Zambardo) thought of what the remainder of the group was doing and so they all interpreted the inaction of others as an indication that it was okay to do nothing. Maslach was truly seen as queer and a lot of the guards laughed at her when she initially acknowledged her reservations on the experiment. Another cause that would have prompted guards on the Stanford mock jail to chorus from aiding the victimized inmates is accountability diffusion. In this precept, an individual in a crowd will are inclined to assume that accountability for responding to a disaster will at all times be taken on by one other particular person. The good guards on this situation could have handed on the accountability to behave as a result of they might have assumed that different guards will tackle that initiative. In different phrases, the presence of a crowd or a bunch typically reduces the strain to behave heroically or to assist. Alternatively, it might be a basic case of battle avoidance. The bystander guards could have assumed that the dangerous guards would stage an assault in opposition to them or they might have been afraid of inflicting rigidity amongst themselves. This experiment, due to this fact, exhibits that social approval is a key driver for motion as many observers steadily justify their actions by means of these very notions. (Collins et al, 2007)

How the Stanford experiment compares with my very own observations of the by stander impact

I’ve undergone quite a few situations of the by stander impact, nonetheless, two main incidences stand out to me. The first one occurred comparatively one month at a metropolis road. A person all of a sudden fell on a part of a six–lane freeway because of seizures. I used to be shopping for some gadgets at a close-by retailer and watched from the window as the person seized for roughly seven minutes whereas everybody simply handed by and left him to himself. This was undoubtedly a disaster; because the particular person was on a street, a quick automobile could not see him and he was in peril of being run over. Furthermore, epileptic people typically need assistance with their oral cavities since they will simply chew their tongues and even chock from them. It is due to this fact frequent sense to tackle the function of a helper every time one comes throughout an epileptic particular person going by means of the assault. I used to be additionally accountable for this by stander impact as a result of I additionally stood there and did nothing. After a mirrored image on my expertise, I noticed that there was loads I may study concerning the by stander impact. First I established that seemingly good folks could not do the appropriate factor in a crowd due to divergent causes and that that is extremely depending on context. While the Stanford jail experiment by standers could have been pushed to inaction by battle avoidance, accountability diffusion and social proof, I turned a bystander due to different causes. First of all, I noticed that I used to be inexperienced in first help and thought {that a} nurse or medical practitioner passing by could have been higher in a position to help such a person. I additionally kept away from serving to as a result of I used to be afraid of what the remainder would take into consideration my help. They may begin criticizing me or disapprove my actions. I used to be additionally afraid that if one thing truly occurred to the person and I used to be providing help then I could also be held liable in a court docket of legislation. All these justifications stopped me from doing something and I suppose a number of different by-standers had comparable ideas. (Rowe, 2009)

The second incident occurred roughly three years in the past at eleven o’clock within the evening. I used to be attacked by one mugger who beat me up and took away my bag, cellular phone and money. Although there have been comparatively few folks; I feel I noticed about 4 of them in separate elements of the road, all turned by standers. As the mugger beat me up, I stored shouting and screaming on the prime of my lungs and clinging to my bag hoping that somebody would come and assist me out however nobody did. In this case, I used to be a sufferer of the bystander impact and felt fairly bitter on the passers by. They have been solely brave sufficient to method me after establishing that the mugger had already fled. Upon analyzing my scenario I noticed that these folks could have grow to be by standers as a result of they have been afraid of the mugger and subsequent victimization by him. They may have been affected by the accountability diffusion precept since different bystanders have been additionally current. Furthermore, de-individuation could have come into play since none of them knew me from earlier than and due to this fact didn’t really feel the necessity to help. (Mc Courtney, 2005) This incident was fairly just like the Stanford experiment as a result of each eventualities concerned some component of social proof and accountability diffusion.


The Stanford mock-prison experiment has crucial insights on why folks would select to not act even after they know that an emergency is going down. This experiment compares a slight extent to my very own experiences with the impact as a result of sure causes have been frequent to the experiment and my received experiences akin to social proof and accountability diffusion whereas others have been distinctive to context akin to worry of victimization and prison legal responsibility. Since I’ve been a sufferer and a bystander, I can relate to the explanations behind inaction.


Collins, A., Levine, M. & Manning, R. (2007). Kitty Genovese homicide. American psychologist journal, 62(4), 555

Rowe, M. (2009). By stander impact. MA: MIT press

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McCartney, T. (2005). ‘Help me’ however nobody did. The Guardian

Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer effect- Understanding how good folks flip evil. NY: Random home

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