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Why People Don't Help Others? A Social Psychology and Prosocial Behaviour Episode.

In this episode of The Psychology World Podcast, we’ll be looking at the social psychology topic of Why People Don’t Help Others? Using an extract from my new book. I really hope you enjoy this psychology episode as much as I do.

This podcast episode has been sponsored by Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationships, Prosocial Behaviour and More. Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers, direct from me and you can order the paperback, hardback and large print versions from Amazon and your local bookstore.

Extract from Psychology of Relationships By Connor Whiteley. COPYRIGHT 2021 CONNOR WHITELEY.


In the last chapter, we looked at the Bystander Effect and three factors behind Bystanderism.

So, in this chapter, I wanted to investigate the topic of why people don’t help in more depth because Bystanderism isn’t the answer to everything.

Rationality of Not Helping:

To answer this question, Bickman (1972) ran a study where the participants were led to believe they were in an experiment with two other participants/ confederates.

Subsequently, the participants heard a bookcase fall on top of one of the confederates, and the participants believed the other confederate could or couldn’t help the person.

Also, they heard the other confederate interpret the event as an accident or not.

In short, as a participant would have heard the bookcase fall on another person and if it was an accident or not, as well as if you were needed to help rescue the person.

The results showed participants were a lot more likely to help if the confederate deemed it to be a definite emergency and they couldn’t help them.

This makes sense because if someone is trapped; it wasn’t urgent and you weren’t needed to help. Chances are you aren’t going to help because you’re not needed.

And yes, I can hear the numbers of readers saying “Yes I would still help,”

I agree I want to think that but chances are we won’t.

When Do Numbers of Bystanders Increase Helping?

I quite like the study below because in psychology we hear a lot about the negative sides of social group (Social Psychology 3rd Edition) and the Bystander Effect.

Therefore, I always love studies that turn the current research consensus on its head.

Since we think the number of Bystanders only decrease helping, but it can increase helping in certain situations.

Greilemeyer & Mugge (2015) conducted an experiment where they told students they needed 1 or 4 people to do an experiment. As well as the participants believed they were alone or 10 other people that received the request.

The hypothesises were:

· If one person is needed the number of bystanders should decrease helping as supported by Latane & Darley (1968)

· When others are needed, the more bystanders there are, there should be an increase in helping.

Their results showed the participants thought helping made ‘less sense’ when one person was needed but many were available. As well as when many were needed and only 1 was available.

This was caused by the diffusion of responsibility in the first scenario.

Whereas when the opposite was true when many people were needed, and many were available. This increased helping.

Again, I think this study has a lot of real-world applications because if multiple people are needed to help. Then what’s the point of one person trying?

Also, I would love to think that I would still try and chances are I probably would. Yet it is still interesting to consider.

A Social Psychology Final Study:

Lastly, Harari, Harari & White (1985) studied rape scenario on a university campus to see if men alone or men in groups would help.

The results showed men in groups overwhelming helped. Probably due to feeling safe and the norm is to help.

Critical Thinking:

Nonetheless, the study was far from perfect because helping is naturally strong in a natural setting. Since humans are inclined to help others.

You’ll see in the next chapter on Altruism how true that can be sometimes.

Additionally, there was no discussion of ethics in the study because these weren’t briefed, and informed consent wasn’t obtained before the study.

Furthermore, when someone cries rape, you know its an emergency so the generalisability of the findings might not be as high as you think it is.

Due to the results of the study can only be generalised to situations that are clearly an emergency.

On the positive side, participants who thought they would have to talk to the participant later helped faster.

In addition, the number of confederates had no impact on this. (Gottlieb & Carver, 1980)

Lastly and perhaps the most interesting finding is public self-awareness reverses The Bystander Effect.

I talk a lot more about self-awareness in Social Psychology. Yet I think this is an interesting finding as it could mean the way to get more people to help others, could be to make them more aware of themselves in these situations.

Since if people know they’re being watched, and let’s face it judged by others, for their actions then it might make more people help others.

For example, if a person was walking in a street and they saw an elderly lady fall over and no one, including the elderly woman saw that person, then there’s a chance they would avoid the situation, and hope someone else would help.

However, if that person thought about the negative judgements other people would be giving them for not helping. Then maybe, just maybe they would help.

It’s an interesting idea to think about.

If you want to learn more, please check out:

Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Friendships, Romantic Relationships, Prosocial Behaviour and More. Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers, direct from me and you can order the paperback, hardback and large print versions from Amazon and your local bookstore.

Have a great day!

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