MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Bystander Effect

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Bystander Effect

If a person is assaulted on the street of a large city in the middle of the day with many people around, the likelihood that someone will call for help will actually decrease in relation to the larger crowds. This phenomenon is known as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Deviance

Conformity

Self-serving bias

Bystander effect

Groupthink

Correct answer:

Bystander effect

Explanation:

According to the bystander effect, there is diffusion of responsibility; thus, most people assume, often mistakenly, that “someone else” will take the necessary actions such as calling the police or ambulance. The likelihood of someone taking appropriate action is inversely correlated with the number of people at the scene. 

While intriguing, the other choices are incorrect. A self-serving bias is the tendency to attribute successes to ourselves and failures to external causes. Conformity is where one adjusts one’s thinking or behavior because of that of others. Deviance is described as a violation of society’s standards of conduct or expectations. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

Example Question #4 : Behavioral Phenomena Within A Group

Diana takes the subway to and from school every day. Her family’s apartment, situated in a low-income neighborhood of New York City, is a thirty-minute walk from the subway station. During her trips to the subway, Diana loves to watch people work, play, and socialize. She feels very safe in her community because she trusts the people around her. 

Diana sees a large man yelling at a woman. He shoves the woman and she tries to run away, but the man grabs her. Even though she is yelling, none of the other pedestrians pay any attention. Which of the following social terms describes the scene that Diana is observing?

Possible Answers:

Conformity principle

Bystander effect

Domestic exclusivity

Anomie

Correct answer:

Bystander effect

Explanation:

Also called bystander apathy, the “bystander effect” describes cases where individuals do nothing to help someone in need when other people are around. Many think that if no one else is reacting, then it must mean that the problem is not worth solving. A landmark case occurred in New York when Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in a public area. Although 38 people witnessed the murder, no one stepped in to help. This scenario is a classic example of the bystander effect. Although the people could be described as conforming to one another, bystander effect is a more specific description.

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