March 13, 2008


The theme this week at Goat Rope is the bystander effect and how and when people decide to intervene--or not. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier entries. You'll also find links and comments about current events.

Psychological experiments as well as unfortunate events have suggested that there's something about being part of a larger group of people that makes us less likely to personally take action to help other people in a bad situation.

But it doesn't stop there--sometimes being part of a group makes us less likely to take action to help ourselves.

Researchers Darley and Latane (see yesterday's post) tested this in another ingenious experiment in which naive subjects were given a routine task in a room where smoke poured from the vents. When they were the only people in the room, most people (around 75 percent) reported the smoke.

But when they were in the room with two other people who expressed no concern about it (and were instructed as part of the experiment to ignore it), only ten percent reported it--even when the room was full of smoke at the end of the six minute experiment.

When they tried the experiment with three naive subjects in the room, i.e. nobody who was "in on it," people only reported the smoke 38 percent of the time.

It seems in general that we take their cues about the nature of a given situation from other people and if others don't seem to think it's a big deal, we're not likely to either--even if it could be a matter of our own life and death.

Time seems to be a factor in the decision to act as well. It seems that the longer people wait to take action, the less likely they are to do so.

Some days, El Cabrero is reminded of one of Dylan's darker lines: "We're idiots, babe. It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves."

THE RECESSION AND THE WAR are the subjects of this op-ed by economist Dean Baker. Short version: it made things worse, but so did bad domestic policies and priorities.

EVANGELICALS ON THE MOVE. Here's an interesting article from The Nation about changing attitudes among evangelical voters. The religious right's lock on the group has been broken or at least challenged.

NEW BLOG FROM GOOD JOBS FIRST. GJF has long taken the lead in the fight for job quality standards, smart growth and accountability in economic development policies. The new blog, Clawback, is a welcome addition.

QUICK, ROBIN, GET THE SHARK REPELLENT! I did not make this up. According to a brief item in The Week Magazine, designers of the Shark Shield, a devise intended to keep sharks away by emitting electronic waves, may have to go back to the drawing board after a shark ate one of their units.

MORE ON CLIMATE CHANGE IN WV. Here's WV Public Radio on local responses to climate change (or the lack thereof).

RETIRING BABY BOOMERS might not signify the end of the world after all, this Foreign Policy article suggests.


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