White Paper – Adam Tutolo

1. The Topic Background: Diffusion of responsibility also known as the bystander effect is a perplexing phenomenon. Diffusion of responsibility  occurs when a person is in need of help and the bystander doesn’t take action when others are present. This phenomenon occurs more often when there are more people present, and when the responsibility isn’t assigned to a particular person. Experiments have proven that it rarely occurs when a person is by themselves. In most cases the larger the group, the less likely it is for someone to help. The bystanders are all waiting for someone else to help. It is a very interesting concept because the brain is unconsciously making this decision for you. If people are asked if they would lend assistance in certain situations they usually say yes they would. However when the situation occurs they fail to act. The group failing to act goes against the norm of human being behavior.

2. My Working Thesis: Diffusion of Responsibility is a strange phenomenon that occurs in situations where people are in need of assistance. The bystander usually fails to react appropriately and does not take action to help the person in need. The bystander’s brain is going through steps before having a final reaction to the situation. They notice the problem and then define it as a person in need of help. However they unconsciously stop at that point. The brain is telling them to stop and they enter into a strange state where they are confused. The more people that are around the more likely it is for the phenomenon to occur.

3. Counterintuitive Note: This theory goes against the social norm. People would think that if a person needs assistance and if you were physically able to do so you would help. This is not the case according to the Diffusion of Responsibility theory. People’s actions go against what people are typically led to believe.

Topics for Smaller Papers: Some smaller topics would be: “People’s reactions to a person in need”, “The 5 Step decision making process” , “Risk Taking Behavior”. This is a very broad topic and there are many smaller topics that can be discussed thoroughly. This topic is about the brain and how it reacts you can look into so many theories and ideas as to why Diffusion of Responsibility occurs.

5. Current State of my Research Paper: I have read many interesting articles and am really starting to understand the concept of Diffusion of Responsibly. There are tons of sources and I am beginning to narrow down some of them. My knowledge on this subject has come a long way since i first decided to research this topic. I intend to find more actual cases and accounts of this phenomenon. I know there are some criminal cases and studies done on this that will be very interesting. I am really happy with my progression thus far.

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3 Responses to White Paper – Adam Tutolo

  1. lebano55 says:

    I’m sure you’ve probably already looked at it, but something you may want to look into is the show “What Would You Do?” on ABC. It basically stages situations and records how different people respond to these scenarios. Afterwards, the host reveals to the bystanders involved that everything was staged, and questions them on their actions. I’m not sure how exactly it’ll effect your argument, but it’s worth a shot. Here’s a link: http://abcnews.go.com/WhatWouldYouDo/

  2. davidbdale says:

    Hey, Adam. This is a first-rate topic very worthy of your investigation. That said, you’ll need a strong hook to make it specific and manageable for a short paper.

    Of course you’re familiar with the Kitty Genovese story, in which dozens of people are thought to have reasoned: someone else will surely help her, so I don’t have to.

    But that’s quite different from a scene in which the bystanders can observe the other bystanders not helping. That’s even more perplexing: how do I absolve myself when I can see nobody else is helping?

    And both of those are different from the scenarios cooked up by psychologists to see how much pain a “test subject” will inflict on another human being when they’re instructed to do so by a person of authority.

    Any one of these types of situations would be a big enough topic for a research paper, and a paper on just one type would be far more satisfying than a breezy “survey paper” that barely has time to describe the various types.

    Your thesis that “the bystander’s brain is going through steps,” while certainly true, is nowhere near explained by “they enter into a strange state.” That’s not a theory at all. Your job will be to pin down the details of the thought process, preferably in just one type of situation.

    This will sound cruel, Adam, but I just need to be blunt for one moment. Your “Current State” paragraph is a classic case of writing that says absolutely nothing. It contains not a single meaningful claim.

    The cure for that meaninglessness is to focus soon and closely on a very specific case that illustrates your excellent counterintuitive phenomenon.

  3. davidbdale says:

    By the way, diffusion of responsibility also occurs when we’re the only person on the scene. A hit-and-run driver in Philadelphia recently claimed that he didn’t flee the scene until he saw his victim move. Being sure the pedestrian was alive was apparently all he was willing to take responsibility for. Everything else was somebody else’s job.

    Not to mention the mundane examples that demonstrate clearly what we’re capable of: we leave just a little bit of coffee in the urn to pass along the responsibility of making another pot to someone else, for example. We walk away from little accidents that can’t be traced back to us. We decline to donate to worthy causes by reasoning that others have more disposable income than we do. As long as someone else can do the job, or take the blame, or be considered responsible, we’re not likely to step up and do the work.

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