The beginning of the article proposes the idea of the diffusion of responsibility among people when placed in positions where responsibility is needed. This was imprinted very deeply in the readers mind when the authors present the stories of Kitty Genovese, Andrew Mormille, and Eleanor Bradley.
These events are tragic, and the author calls them deeply disturbing. He cites that if one or two bystanders had ignored the obvious calls for help, this could be understood. It is the sheer amount of bystanders who did nothing that is concerning.
This is where the diffusion of responsibility comes into play. The author goes so far as to make the claim that the more people see the event, the less likely one individual is to assist.
The authors highlight the series of decisions the bystander has to make when they witness a crisis. First, they have to “notice” an event is happening. Second, they have to “interpret” the event as an actual emergency. Lastly, and obviously the most important, is the person has to feel a “personal responsibility” for grounds to intervene. Only when these three things fall into place does a person make the decision to intervene in a situation.
They then present the problems inherent with these three criteria. The authors cite American manners, namely the need to give privacy, as a reason for people being slow to notice an emergency. In addition, they provide the smoke study–empirical evidence that people only tend to move in groups. If everyone ignores the emergency, generally people either do not notice, or perceive that one exists at all.
This article proves that the behavior of people in a group is radically different than when acting individually.