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From Empathy to Apathy: The Bystander Effect Revisited



The bystander effect, the reduction in helping behavior in the presence of other people, has been explained predominantly by situational influences on decision making. Diverging from this view, we highlight recent evidence on the neural mechanisms and dispositional factors that determine apathy in bystanders. We put forward a new theoretical perspective that integrates emotional, motivational, and dispositional aspects. In the presence of other bystanders, personal distress is enhanced, and fixed action patterns of avoidance and freezing dominate. This new perspective suggests that bystander apathy results from a reflexive emotional reaction dependent on the personality of the bystander.
Current Directions in Psychological
2018, Vol. 27(4) 249 –256
© The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0963721417749653
When people are asked whether they would spontane-
ously assist a person in an emergency situation, almost
everyone will reply positively. Although we all imagine
ourselves heroes, the fact is that many people refrain
from helping in real life, especially when we are aware
that other people are present at the scene. In the late
1960s, John M. Darley and Bibb Latané (1968) initiated
an extensive research program on this so-called
“bystander effect.” In their seminal article, they found
that any person who was the sole bystander helped, but
only 62% of the participants intervened when they were
part of a larger group of five bystanders. Following these
first findings, many researchers consistently observed a
reduction in helping behavior in the presence of others
(Fischer etal., 2011; Latané & Nida, 1981). This pattern
is observed during serious accidents (Harris & Robinson,
1973), noncritical situations (Latané & Dabbs, 1975), on
the Internet (Markey, 2000), and even in children
(Plötner, Over, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2015).
Three psychological factors are thought to facilitate
bystander apathy: the feeling of having less responsi-
bility when more bystanders are present (diffusion of
responsibility), the fear of unfavorable public judgment
when helping (evaluation apprehension), and the
belief that because no one else is helping, the situation
is not actually an emergency (pluralistic ignorance).
Although these traditional explanations (Latané &
Darley, 1970) cover several important aspects (attitudes
and beliefs), other aspects remain unknown, unex-
plained, or ignored in studies of the bystander effect,
including neural mechanisms, motivational aspects,
and the effect of personality. Indeed, the only hit for
the keyword “personality” in a recent overview (Fischer
etal., 2011) was for journal names in the reference list
(e.g., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).
Consequently, it seems fair to say that the “literature
has remained somewhat ambiguous with regard to the
relevant psychological processes” (Fischer etal., 2011,
p. 518). Here, we highlight recent neuroimaging and
behavioral studies and sketch a new theoretical model
that incorporates emotional, motivational, and dispo-
sitional aspects and highlights the reflexive aspect of
the bystander effect.
749653CDPXXX10.1177/0963721417749653Hortensius, de GelderBystander Effect Revisited
Corresponding Author:
Ruud Hortensius, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, School
of Psychology, University of Glasgow, 62 Hillhead St., Glasgow, G12
8QB, Scotland, United Kingdom
From Empathy to Apathy: The Bystander
Effect Revisited
Ruud Hortensius1 and Beatrice de Gelder2,3
1Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, School of Psychology, University of Glasgow; 2Department of
Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University; and 3Department
of Computer Science, University College London
The bystander effect, the reduction in helping behavior in the presence of other people, has been explained
predominantly by situational influences on decision making. Diverging from this view, we highlight recent evidence
on the neural mechanisms and dispositional factors that determine apathy in bystanders. We put forward a new
theoretical perspective that integrates emotional, motivational, and dispositional aspects. In the presence of other
bystanders, personal distress is enhanced, and fixed action patterns of avoidance and freezing dominate. This new
perspective suggests that bystander apathy results from a reflexive emotional reaction dependent on the personality
of the bystander.
bystander effect, helping behavior, empathy, sympathy, personal distress
250 Hortensius, de Gelder
Neural Mechanisms of Bystander Apathy
Can neuroimaging studies inform the investigation of
the bystander effect? What are the neural mechanisms
underlying bystander apathy? In view of traditional
explanations, one would expect to find the involvement
of brain regions that are important for decision making.
Yet emerging evidence suggests that certain forms of
helping behavior are automatic or reflexive (Rand,
2016; Zaki & Mitchell, 2013), and recent neuroimaging
studies without a bystander focus already propose the
automatic activation of preparatory responses in salient
situations. Observing a threatening confrontation
between two people activates the premotor cortex inde-
pendent of attention (Sinke, Sorger, Goebel, & de
Gelder, 2010) or focus (Van den Stock, Hortensius,
Sinke, Goebel, & de Gelder, 2015). This raises the ques-
tion of whether the absence of helping behavior is a
cognitive decision or follows automatically from a
reflexive process.
A recent functional MRI (fMRI) study directly mapped
neural activity as a function of the number of bystand-
ers present in an emergency situation (Hortensius & de
Gelder, 2014). Participants watched an elderly woman
collapsing to the ground alone or in the presence of
one, two, or four bystanders. Activity increased in
vision- and attention-related regions, but not in the
mentalizing network. When participants witnessed
emergencies with increasing numbers of bystanders, a
decrease in activity was observed in brain regions
important for the preparation to help: the pre- and
postcentral gyrus and the medial prefrontal cortex
(MPFC; Fig. 1a). The MPFC is implicated in a diverse
set of emotional and social processes. One proposal
for an overarching role is mapping of situation-response
association (Alexander & Brown, 2011; Euston, Gruber,
& McNaughton, 2012), coding the link between an
event (e.g., an emergency) and corresponding responses
(in this case, helping behavior). Activity in the MPFC
has been linked to prosocial behavior (Moll etal., 2006;
Rilling etal., 2002; Waytz, Zaki, & Mitchell, 2012), such
as helping friends and strangers on a daily basis
(Rameson, Morelli, & Lieberman, 2012).
Using a scenario similar to those used in early
bystander studies, Zanon, Novembre, Zangrando,
Chittaro, and Silani (2014) showed the importance of
the MPFC for helping behavior during a life-threatening
situation. In an experiment using virtual reality, partici-
pants and four bystanders had to evacuate a building
that caught on fire. While doing so, they encountered
a trapped individual whom they could help. People
who offered to help (compared with those who
refrained from helping) showed greater engagement of
the MPFC within the anterior default-mode network
(Fig. 1b). However, can this association be quantified
as reflexive or reflective? A recent study suggests that
computations underlying choices with a focus on other
people’s needs are faster, or reflexive, compared with
computations of choices with a selfish focus (Hutcherson,
Bushong, & Rangel, 2015). Both of these choices are
sustained by the MPFC. Recent evidence suggests that
coding of reflexive responses to situations within this
area might depend on experience and personality.
When cognition was restricted while participants
observed people in distress, activity in the MPFC did
not decrease for people with higher levels compared
with people with lower levels of dispositional empathy
(Rameson etal., 2012). Together, these recent findings
provide a first indication of the neural mechanism
underlying bystander apathy and point to a possible
mechanism similar to a reflex that determines the likeli-
hood of helping.
Dispositional Influences on
Bystander Apathy
The first experimental bystander study found no effect
of dispositional levels of social-norm following on
bystander apathy (Darley & Latané, 1968), and since
then the role of personality factors has largely been
ignored. The general notion is that behavior is domi-
nated by situational factors rather than by personality;
thus bystander apathy is present in everyone. This con-
trasts with other research areas, in which the impact of
personality—systematic interindividual differences con-
sistent across time and situation—on helping behavior
have been widely appreciated (Graziano & Habashi,
2015). Sympathy and personal distress have been identi-
fied as two dispositional factors that influence helping
behavior (Batson, Fultz, & Schoenrade, 1987; Eisenberg
& Eggum, 2009). Sympathy is an other-oriented response
that encompasses feelings of compassion and care for
another person. The contrasting and automatic reaction
of personal distress relates to the observer’s self-
oriented feelings of discomfort and distress. In stark
contrast to personal distress, helping behavior driven
by sympathy is not influenced by social factors such as
social evaluation or reward (Fultz, Batson, Fortenbach,
McCarthy, & Varney, 1986; Romer, Gruder, & Lizzadro,
Inspired by these findings, we studied the interplay
between the bystander effect and a disposition to experi-
ence sympathy and personal distress by directly and indi-
rectly probing the motor cortex while participants
observed an emergency (Hortensius, Schutter, & de
Gelder, 2016). As predicted by previous literature, both
sympathy and personal distress were related to faster
Bystander Effect Revisited 251
Trapped IndividualEvacuationStarting Point
Decreased Brain Activity During the Observation of an Emergency With Increasing Number of Bystanders
No Bystanders One Bystander Two Bystanders Four Bystanders
Pre- and Postcentral Gyrus Medial Prefrontal Cortex
Medial Prefrontal Cortex
An Increase in Functional Connectivity While Helping Someone in the Presence of Bystanders
Fig. 1. Neural activity as it relates to bystander apathy. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment testing bystander apathy
(a), participants saw an elderly woman collapsing on the ground in the presence of no, one, two, or four bystanders. Still images from
the videos are shown. The decrease in activity in the pre- and postcentral gyrus and the medial prefrontal cortex during the witness of
an emergency with increasing number of bystanders is shown. In a virtual reality experiment (b), participants had to evacuate a burning
building. During the evacuation, they encountered a trapped individual whom they could help or not. Still images from the virtual real-
ity environment are shown. Increased functional coupling of the medial prefrontal cortex within the anterior part of the default-mode
network in individuals who helped compared with individuals who did not help is shown. Panel (a) was adapted from Hortensius and
de Gelder (2014), and panel (b) was adapted from Zanon, Novembre, Zangrando, Chittaro, and Silani (2014); both are reproduced with
permission from Elsevier.
252 Hortensius, de Gelder
responses to an emergency without bystanders present.
However, only personal distress predicted the negative
effect of bystanders during an emergency. Further testing
showed that this association between personal distress
and the bystander effect relates to a reflexive—but not
reflective—preparation to help. Consistent with the previ-
ous neuroimaging findings, bystander apathy is not the
result of a cognitive decision to act; rather, it is dependent
on a mechanism similar to a reflex, especially for people
with a disposition to experience personal distress.
The reflexive aversive reactions to the suffering of
another person are closely related to behavioral avoid-
ance and inhibition. Indeed, state and trait avoidance-
related motivations influence bystander apathy (van
den Bos, Müller, & van Bussel, 2009; Zoccola, Green,
Karoutsos, Katona, & Sabini, 2011). When people are
reminded to act without inhibition, thereby temporally
shifting the balance between approach and avoidance
motivations, helping behavior occurs faster and even
increases in bystander situations (van den Bos etal.,
2009). Behavioral inhibition is sustained by subcortical
brain regions (e.g., amygdala) and cortical brain regions
(e.g., motor and prefrontal areas) that act depending
on situation and disposition (McNaughton & Corr,
2004). For example, a recent study showed the dynamic
interplay between behavioral inhibition, helping behav-
ior, and personality (Stoltenberg, Christ, & Carlo, 2013).
Variation in the serotonin neurotransmitter system, a
crucial modulator of behavioral inhibition, affected
helping behavior, and this relation was mediated by
dispositional levels of social inhibition. Thus, bystander
apathy is likely to be the result of a personality-
dependent mechanism that is similar to a reflex.
Bystander Apathy as the Result of a
Motivational System
These findings dovetail with a motivational model
described by Graziano and his colleagues (Graziano &
Habashi, 2010, 2015) in which two evolutionarily con-
served but opposing motivational systems with fixed
behavioral consequences are activated in sequence
when people encounter an emergency. Feelings of per-
sonal distress and sympathy are related to the first and
second systems, respectively. The instantaneous response
to an emergency is a feeling of distress and activation
of the fight-freeze-flight system. Under these conditions,
helping behavior does not occur, and the behavioral
response is limited to avoidance and freeze responses.
Over time, a slower feeling of sympathy arises together
with the activation of a reflective second system. This
counteracts the fixed action patterns of the first system.
The likelihood that helping behavior will occur is the
net result of these two systems, and helping behavior
is promoted by the second system. Feelings of personal
distress and sympathy are present in everyone, but the
dispositional levels of these feelings and strength of
these two systems vary between individuals (Graziano
& Habashi, 2010, 2015). The presence of bystanders
during an emergency selectively increases the activity
of the first system (Fig. 2a). This situational increase in
personal distress, combined with dispositional levels of
personal distress, increases the activation of the fight-
freeze-flight system and results in a reduced likelihood
of helping. Indeed, higher levels of personal distress
decrease helping behavior when the possibility of
escaping the situation is easy (Batson etal., 1987). Ulti-
mately, bystander apathy occurs as the consequence of
an inhibitory response, leading people to try to avoid
the situation, but this is not a conscious decision.
The Ultimate Cause of Bystander Apathy
Although this perspective provides new insight into the
proximate cause of bystander apathy, it also allows for
speculation on its ultimate cause. Why is the motivation
to help dependent on the number of bystanders? Per-
haps because, for the best outcome, only the fittest
individual (strongest, most experienced, etc.) should
provide help and others should not, or at least they
should help more cautiously. The training of firefighters
and other first responders directly follows these prin-
ciples: Only well-trained individuals are allowed to
help, and trainees are excluded. Taking into account
the composition and size of the bystander group is
crucial in providing efficient help that maximizes indi-
vidual survival. This might already be reflected in the
calculations within the motivational system (Francis,
Gummerum, Ganis, Howard & Terbeck, 2017). Apathy
in novel situations or with unknown bystanders could
be the consequence of these calculations. There is indi-
rect evidence for this suggestion: Bystander apathy is
reduced when bystanders know each other (Fischer
etal., 2011), and an individual’s competence relative
to other bystanders influences the occurrence of help-
ing behavior (Bickman, 1971; Ross & Braband, 1973).
Future studies should formally test the effect of group
composition (i.e., known identity, expertise) on the cal-
culations within the motivational system. Are increased
levels of personal distress during bystander situations a
way to prevent inadequate helping behavior?
An Integrative Perspective on
Bystander Apathy
This is not to say that previous decision-based explana-
tions are obsolete. Cognitive, situational, and disposi-
tional explanations are not mutually exclusive, and a
Bystander Effect Revisited 253
System II: Sympathy
System I: Personal Distress
Likelihood of Helping
Effect of Bystanders
stem I:
Attentional Capture
Evaluation of Situation
Decision on Responsibility
Belief of Competence
Decision to Help
System II:
System I:
Personal Distress
ersonal Distres
Decision Process
Behavioral Inhibition
Emotion Regulation
Possible Integrative
Perspective Taking
Effect of Personality
Fig. 2. A motivational and integrated account of bystander apathy. Helping behavior is the net result of two opposing processes (Graziano
& Habashi, 2010). When people encounter an emergency, self-centered feelings of personal distress arise, and the fight-freeze-flight system is
activated; helping behavior does not occur (a). Only with the opposing other-oriented feeling of sympathy and the activation of the second
system does the likelihood of helping increase. The strength of the two systems is the sum of dispositional and situational influences. The
strength of System I is increased for people with a disposition to experience personal distress in response to an emergency. Because the pres-
ence of bystanders results in an additional increase in the strength and dominance of System I, individuals with a disposition to experience
personal distress in response to an emergency are more prone to bystander apathy. Intermediate processes can be described to reconcile
cognitive and motivational accounts of bystander apathy. The decision process, as first put forward by Latané and Darley (1970), consists
of the cognitive steps that occur from the initial attentional capture and evaluation of the emergency, to the decision of responsibility and
competence, and ultimately to the decision to provide help (b). These processes can be mediated by the integrative processes of behavioral
inhibition, emotion regulation. and perspective taking, which are at first driven by the reflexive system of personal distress and later by the
reflective system of sympathy. Ultimately, these personality- and situation-dependent processes can increase or decrease the likelihood of a
person providing help during emergency situations involving bystanders.
254 Hortensius, de Gelder
multilevel approach is crucial in understanding helping
behavior and the lack thereof. Thoughts and feelings
are part of every responsive bystander, and the moti-
vational processes described could precede or influ-
ence the decision to help (Hortensius, Neyret, Slater &
de Gelder, 2018). Latané and Darley (1970) describe a
five-step process during bystander situations: The
potential emergency (a) captures the attention of the
individual, who (b) evaluates the emergency, (c)
decides on responsibility and (d) belief of competence,
and then ultimately (e) makes the decision to help or
not. However, these calculations in the decision-making
process do not necessarily have to occur at a reflective,
cognitive level (Garcia, Weaver, Moskowitz, & Darley,
2002) and can also reflect the outcome of reflexive or
intermediate processes.
Several intermediate processes can reconcile the pre-
vious reflective and present reflexive explanations but
warrant further empirical confirmation (Fig. 2b). These
processes—behavioral inhibition, emotion regulation,
and perspective taking—stem directly from the over-
arching motivational systems (Batson et al., 1987).
Immediately after someone confronts an emergency, the
integrative processes (behavioral inhibition and emotion
regulation) are under the influence of the first system
of personal distress; over time, the system related to
sympathy mediates these processes (emotion regulation,
perspective taking). Together, these processes increase
or decrease bystander apathy. For example, although
behavioral inhibition and freezing at an early stage can
help in assessing and deciding on the situation
(McNaughton & Corr, 2004), prolonged inhibition and
freezing is ineffective. Likewise, the ability to regulate
initial aversive reactions to an emergency, which are
tightly linked to dispositional levels of personal distress
and sympathy (Eisenberg & Eggum, 2009), is crucial in
deciding to help. Taking into account the perspective
of other bystanders, as well as the victim, mediated by
the core process of sympathy (Eisenberg & Eggum,
2009), can positively influence felt moral responsibility
(Paciello, Fida, Cerniglia, Tramontano, & Cole, 2013),
the cognitive belief of competence, and ultimately the
decision to help (Patil etal., 2017). This cascade of
processes in response to an emergency is reflexive at
first, whereas the later stages can be described as reflec-
tive. This distinction between reflexive and reflective
might be dependent on experience, and the coupling
of situation and response can be completely reflexive
for certain individuals or situations (Rand & Epstein,
2014; Zaki & Mitchell, 2013). As for explaining bystander
apathy, however, pluralistic ignorance, evaluation
apprehension, and diffusion of responsibility might
simply be the summary terms of the attenuated
integrative processes of emotion regulation, behavioral
inhibition, and perspective taking mediated by the moti-
vational system of personal distress.
Concluding Remarks
This perspective opens up new ways to study the neural
and psychological mechanisms of bystander apathy by
taking into account situational and dispositional factors.
Although ecological validity is a challenge in neuroim-
aging studies, innovations such as virtual reality,
together with neuroimaging and behavioral testing,
portable neuroimaging systems, and laboratory-based
investigations of people who provided help in real life,
will allow the important next steps in bystander
research. The bottom-up approach for which we argue
sketches a novel perspective on the bystander effect
and already paves the way for a different explanation.
Together, findings from recent neuroimaging and
behavioral studies suggest that the bystander effect is
the result of a reflexive action system that is rooted in
an evolutionarily conserved mechanism and operates
as a function of dispositional personal distress. In the
end, we do not actively choose apathy, but are merely
reflexively behaving as bystanders.
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Action Editor
Randall W. Engle served as action editor for this article.
We thank R. Huiskes and G. J. Will for insightful discussions
that further inspired this work and S. Bell for valuable com-
ments on a version of the manuscript.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared that there were no conflicts of interest
with respect to the authorship or the publication of this
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... It has been acknowledged in models of bystander behavior, developed primarily with adults in mind, that the emotional state of the witness is likely to exert an influence on their willingness to intervene (Fischer et al., 2011;Hortensius and de Gelder, 2018). For example, a failure to intervene to assist someone in distress has been described as a fear-driven "freezing" or avoidance response that is triggered by high levels of personal distress when other bystanders are present (Hortensius and de Gelder, 2018). ...
... It has been acknowledged in models of bystander behavior, developed primarily with adults in mind, that the emotional state of the witness is likely to exert an influence on their willingness to intervene (Fischer et al., 2011;Hortensius and de Gelder, 2018). For example, a failure to intervene to assist someone in distress has been described as a fear-driven "freezing" or avoidance response that is triggered by high levels of personal distress when other bystanders are present (Hortensius and de Gelder, 2018). By way of contrast, Fischer et al. (2011) have argued that a bystander who perceives the level of danger to the victim (and by extension to themselves) to be high is more likely to intervene. ...
... Interestingly, we found an association between anxiety and autonomous motivation to defend. Prior studies have demonstrated that the emotional state of witnesses can influence on their willingness to intervene (Fischer et al., 2011;Hortensius and de Gelder, 2018). By contrast, Jungert and Perrin (2019) found that Swedish adolescents with higher levels of trait anxiety were less likely to defend a victim of bullying belonging to an out-group. ...
... Black women often experience the bystander effect in higher education, which refers to the decline of helping others in the presence of other people, which has been explained primarily by situational influences on individual decision making (Hortensius & de Gelder, 2018). Determined are the ways in which distribution of responsibility, pluralistic unawareness, and victim outcomes can influence helping behavior. ...
... Bystander Effect: Refers to the decline of helping others in the presence of other people, which has been explained primarily by situational influences on individual decision making (Hortensius & de Gelder, 2018). ...
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This chapter discusses the social justice implications of moral instructional practice, according to bell hooks. Also identified are the practical uses of educational leadership in classroom instruction utilizing transgression of the status quo. It is incumbent for educational practitioners to maintain healthy and ethical relationships with their students. As a result, an educator's moral practice is analyzed through the various ethical theories of the common good, social justice, liberation practice, essentialism, feminism, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. From a deontological perspective and as a result of liberation practice, relativism and moral instruction is the way forward to ensure the greater good. Notwithstanding, the field of education must transform to embrace heightened awareness and respect for individuality, equity, and justice. This chapter will utilize the example of Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune to demonstrate practical applications for transformative leadership in higher education.
... Consider bystander intervention, often taken as a case study of the power of the situation to shape the link between our belief (someone needs help) and our actions (we help them). Early research showed that the number of people witnessing a potential emergency situation had a strong effect on the individual proclivity to help the victim: the more witnesses there were, the less likely each individual was to intervene (Darley & Latané, 1968); recent research has also revealed that some interpersonal differences play a role in deciding whether someone will help (Hortensius & de Gelder, 2018). Although some of these behavioral differences stem from the participants holding different beliefs (i.e. about the nature of the emergency), even when the existence of an emergency situation is clear, behavioral responses vary. ...
... Still, there are some clear patterns. First, nearly everyone is strongly affected by the situation, even those who elect not to help (e.g., Hortensius & de Gelder, 2018; on the effects of witnessing trauma more generally, see, e.g., Regehr et al., 2002). Second, there is always a substantial share of participants that chooses to act--for instance, 62% of participants in groups of five bystanders, in the original study (Darley & Latané, 1968). ...
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Beliefs play a central role in our lives. They lie at the heart of what makes us human, they shape the organization and functioning of our minds, they define the boundaries of our culture, and they guide our motivation and behavior. Given their central importance, researchers across a number of disciplines have studied beliefs, leading to results and literatures that do not always interact. The Cognitive Science of Belief aims to integrate these disconnected lines of research to start a broader dialogue on the nature, role, and consequences of beliefs. It tackles timeless questions, as well as applications of beliefs that speak to current social issues. This multidisciplinary approach to beliefs will benefit graduate students and researchers in cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, political science, economics, and religious studies.
... Recent research reveals more complex emotional and motivational reasons that witnesses to dangerous or harmful situations do or do not take action. (Hortensius & de Gelder, 2018). Bystanders are influenced by organizational culture and attitudes about behaviors in making decisions about intervention (Fischer et al., 2011). ...
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The engineering profession has experienced some ethical cases that were rarely reported, scrutinized, or discussed because: they did not necessarily represent violations of existing codes even if they breached ethical principles; those within the organization were not prepared to take steps to address the issues or impose sanction; an/or some of the personnel associated with these cases resorted to silence to avoid being labeled as trouble-makers in their organizations and, perhaps, more broadly, in society. The goal of this paper is to heighten managerial awareness of ethical issues, interrelated ethical lapses, and appropriate responsive actions within professional engineering communities. As such, the authors reviewed recent well-known professional and organizational ethical cases including impact of leadership role and existing standards, and critically analyzed interrelated literature. The paper’s case studies exemplify that because ethical issues are complex, intricate, and nuanced; bylaws are insufficient for establishing the inclusive culture for handling potential ethical situations. In fact, through what is known as the codification of ethics, it is possible that someone’s conduct can totally fulfill all professional responsibilities but still be unethical. As such, ethical leadership is needed to provide the means for establishing appropriate norms so as to set the proper structures for addressing the diverse ethical matters. Perceptions about the responses of leaders to potential ethical lapses are a critical factor in formulating, changing, and maintaining ethical values at the individual and organizational levels. A leader’s passive attitude toward ethical issues can be the signal for the ignored lapses to become the norm at not only the organizational level but also the society. Guided by the new Code of Ethics by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this paper aims to trigger the proper ethical behavior and expectations for the welfare of the engineering profession both in the present and future.
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Seafaring shares many characteristics with contemporary working life ashore. However, a major difference is that seafarers can spend up to 12 months aboard a ship that constitutes a work, living and recreational environment. Onboard work includes many stressors that can potentially contribute to workplace bullying and harassment, which in turn can affect safety critical operations. The aim of this study was to identify underlying causes in the organizational and social work environment that can cause workplace bullying and harassment at sea, and to suggest appropriate preventive and promotive strategies and measures. Data were collected mainly through World Café workshops with 56 participants from the Swedish maritime industry. Seafarer occupational health, safety, and wellbeing is largely determined by interdependent factors at micro, meso, and macro levels, where different stakeholders play various roles. Strategies and measures starting at the individual seafarer, and gradually expanding outwards toward the maritime industry are suggested. It is important that a victim of bullying or harassment receives adequate support. Creating crew courage enables employees to both recognize troubling situations and know how to act and respond to a situation. To bridge the gap between policy and practice, the legislative framework needs translating into practical procedures to make sense to the middle manager at the sharp end, with limited knowledge, time, resources, and decision latitude. Future research should evaluate the effectiveness of work environment interventions – what works, for whom, and under which circumstances.
Beliefs play a central role in our lives. They lie at the heart of what makes us human, they shape the organization and functioning of our minds, they define the boundaries of our culture, and they guide our motivation and behavior. Given their central importance, researchers across a number of disciplines have studied beliefs, leading to results and literatures that do not always interact. The Cognitive Science of Belief aims to integrate these disconnected lines of research to start a broader dialogue on the nature, role, and consequences of beliefs. It tackles timeless questions, as well as applications of beliefs that speak to current social issues. This multidisciplinary approach to beliefs will benefit graduate students and researchers in cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, political science, economics, and religious studies.
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Not much is known about bystanders’ emotional reactions after not intervening in cyberbullying might impact their health issues. Narrowing this gap in the literature, the present study focused on examining the moderating effects of emotional reactions (i.e., guilt, sadness, anger) after not intervening in cyberbullying on the longitudinal relationship between cyberbullying bystanding and health issues (i.e., subjective health complaints, suicidal ideation, non-suicidal self-harm). The sample consists of 1,090 7th and 8th graders between the ages of 12 and 15 years old (Mage = 12.19; 50% girls), who completed questionnaires on cyberbullying bystanding, emotional reactions after not intervening in cyberbullying, subjective health complaints, suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal self-harm at Time 1. One year later, at Time 2, 1,067 adolescents (Mage = 13.76; 51% girls) completed questionnaires on subjective health complaints (i.e., suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal self-harm). The findings showed a positive association between Time 1 cyberbullying bystanding and Time 2 health issues. In addition, high levels of Time 1 guilt increased the positive relationships among Time 1 cyberbullying bystanding, Time 2 subjective health complaints, suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal self-harm. Time 1 sadness also moderated the relationship between Time 1 cyberbullying bystanding and Time 2 suicidal ideation and non-suicidal self-harm. However, anger did not moderate any of the associations. Implications for intervention and prevention programs are discussed.
Bystander interventions (BIs) primarily focus on increasing a sense of community and responsibility among students. This study examined moral norms as a determinant of intentions towards BI, within the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). College students at two universities (n = 291) completed an online survey measuring TPB constructs (e.g., intentions, perceived norms) and moral norms. Results indicated that moral norms were significantly associated with intentions toward BI, and appeared to be a valuable addition to the overall perceived norms construct. In addition, the law, parents, peers, and religion were identified as significant determinants of moral norms. Promoting collective responsibility to engage in BI and including a moral imperative to act in message development could increase the impact of BI.
Bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is critical to increasing survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. However, the percentage of cases in which an individual receives bystander CPR is actually low, at only 35% to 40% globally. Preparing lay responders to recognize the signs of sudden cardiac arrest, call 9-1-1, and perform CPR in public and private locations is crucial to increasing survival from this public health problem. The objective of this scientific statement is to summarize the most recent published evidence about the lay responder experience of training, responding, and dealing with the residual impact of witnessing an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The scientific statement focuses on the experience-based literature of actual responders, which includes barriers to responding, experiences of doing CPR, use of an automated external defibrillator, the impact of dispatcher-assisted CPR, and the potential for postevent psychological sequelae. The large body of qualitative and observational studies identifies several gaps in crucial knowledge that, if targeted, could increase the likelihood that those who are trained in CPR will act. We suggest using the experience of actual responders to inform more contextualized training, including the implications of performing CPR on a family member, dispelling myths about harm, training and litigation, and recognition of the potential for psychologic sequelae after the event.
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The occurrence of helping behavior is thought to be automatically triggered by reflexive reactions and promoted by intuitive decisions. Here, we studied whether reflexive reactions to an emergency situation are associated with later helping behavior in a different situation, a violent conflict. First, 29 male supporters of F.C. Barcelona performed a cued-reaction time task with a low and high cognitive load manipulation, to tap into reflexive and reflective processes respectively, during the observation of an emergency. Next, participants entered a bar in Virtual Reality and had a conversation with a virtual fellow supporter. During this conversation, a virtual Real Madrid supporter entered and started an aggressive argument with the fellow supporter that escalated into a physical fight. Verbal and physical interventions of the participant served as measures of helping behavior. Results showed that faster responses to an emergency situation during low, but not during high cognitive load, were associated with more interventions during the violent conflict. However, a tendency to describe the decision to act during the violent conflict as intuitive and reflex-like was related to more interventions. Further analyses revealed that a disposition to experience sympathy, other-oriented feelings during distressful situations, was related to self-reported intuitive decision-making, a reduced distance to the perpetrator, and higher in the intervening participants. Taken together, these results shed new light on helping behavior and are consistent with the notion of a motivational system in which the act of helping is dependent on a complex interplay between intuitive, reflexive and deliberate, reflective processes.
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Recent advances in virtual technologies have allowed the investigation of simulated moral actions in aversive moral dilemmas. Previous studies have employed diverse populations to explore these actions, with little research considering the significance of occupation on moral decision-making. For the first time, in this study we have investigated simulated moral actions in virtual reality made by professionally trained paramedics and fire service incident commanders who are frequently faced with and must respond to moral dilemmas. We found that specially trained individuals showed distinct empathic and related personality trait scores and that these declined with years of experience working in the profession. Supporting the theory that these professionals develop resilience in moral conflict, reduced emotional arousal was observed during virtual simulations of a distressing dilemma. Furthermore, trained professionals demonstrated less regret following the execution of a moral action in virtual reality when compared to untrained control populations. We showed that, contrary to previous research, trained individuals made the same moral judgements and moral actions as untrained individuals, though showing less arousal and regret. In the face of increasing concerns regarding empathy decline in health care professionals, we suggest that the nature of this decline is complex and likely reflects the development of a necessary emotional resilience to distressing events.
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Spontaneous helping behavior during an emergency is influenced by the personality of the onlooker and by social situational factors such as the presence of bystanders. Here, we sought to determine the influences of sympathy, an other-oriented response, and personal distress, a self-oriented response, on the effect of bystanders during an emergency. In four experiments, we investigated whether trait levels of sympathy and personal distress predicted responses to an emergency in the presence of bystanders by using behavioral measures and single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation. Sympathy and personal distress were expected to be associated with faster responses to an emergency without bystanders present, but only personal distress would predict slower responses to an emergency with bystanders present. The results of a cued reaction time task showed that people who reported higher levels of personal distress and sympathy responded faster to an emergency without bystanders (Exp. 1). In contrast to our predictions, perspective taking but not personal distress was associated with slower reaction times as the number of bystanders increased during an emergency (Exp. 2). However, the decrease in motor corticospinal excitability, a direct physiological measure of action preparation, with the increase in the number of bystanders was solely predicted by personal distress (Exp. 3). Incorporating cognitive load manipulations during the observation of an emergency suggested that personal distress is linked to an effect of bystanders on reflexive responding to an emergency (Exp. 4). Taken together, these results indicate that the presence of bystanders during an emergency reduces action preparation in people with a disposition to experience personal distress. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.3758/s13415-016-0423-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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As observers we excel in decoding the emotional signals telling us that a social interaction is turning violent. The neural substrate and its modulation by personality traits remain ill understood. We performed an fMRI experiment in which participants watched videos displaying a violent conflict between two people. Observers' attention was directed to either the aggressor or the victim. Focusing on the aggressor (vs. focusing on the victim) activated the superior temporal sulcus (STS), extra-striate body area (EBA), occipital poles and centro-medial amygdala (CMA). Stronger instantaneous connectivity occurred between these and the EBA, insula, and the red nucleus. When focusing on the victim, basolateral amygdala (BLA) activation was related to trait empathy and showed increased connectivity with the insula and red nucleus. STS activation was associated with trait aggression and increased connectivity with the hypothalamus. The findings reveal that focusing on the aggressor of a violent conflict triggers more activation in categorical (EBA) and emotion (CMA, STS) areas. This is associated with increased instantaneous connectivity among emotion areas (CMA-insula) and between categorical and emotion (EBA-STS) areas. When the focus is on the victim, personality traits (aggression/empathy) modulate activity in emotion areas (respectively STS and postcentral gyrus/ BLA), along with connectivity in the emotional diencephalon (hypothalamus) and early visual areas (occipital pole).
Does cooperating require the inhibition of selfish urges? Or does “rational” self-interest constrain cooperative impulses? I investigated the role of intuition and deliberation in cooperation by meta-analyzing 67 studies in which cognitive-processing manipulations were applied to economic cooperation games (total N = 17,647; no indication of publication bias using Egger’s test, Begg’s test, or p-curve). My meta-analysis was guided by the social heuristics hypothesis, which proposes that intuition favors behavior that typically maximizes payoffs, whereas deliberation favors behavior that maximizes one’s payoff in the current situation. Therefore, this theory predicts that deliberation will undermine pure cooperation (i.e., cooperation in settings where there are few future consequences for one’s actions, such that cooperating is not in one’s self-interest) but not strategic cooperation (i.e., cooperation in settings where cooperating can maximize one’s payoff). As predicted, the meta-analysis revealed 17.3% more pure cooperation when intuition was promoted over deliberation, but no significant difference in strategic cooperation between more intuitive and more deliberative conditions.
We propose a neurocomputational model of altruistic choice and test it using behavioral and fMRI data from a task in which subjects make choices between real monetary prizes for themselves and another. We show that a multi-attribute drift-diffusion model, in which choice results from accumulation of a relative value signal that linearly weights payoffs for self and other, captures key patterns of choice, reaction time, and neural response in ventral striatum, temporoparietal junction, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The model generates several novel insights into the nature of altruism. It explains when and why generous choices are slower or faster than selfish choices, and why they produce greater response in TPJ and vmPFC, without invoking competition between automatic and deliberative processes or reward value for generosity. It also predicts that when one's own payoffs are valued more than others', some generous acts may reflect mistakes rather than genuinely pro-social preferences. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Prosocial behavior is a central feature of human life and a major focus of research across the natural and social sciences. Most theoretical models of prosociality share a common assumption: Humans are instinctively selfish, and prosocial behavior requires exerting reflective control over these basic instincts. However, findings from several scientific disciplines have recently contradicted this view. Rather than requiring control over instinctive selfishness, prosocial behavior appears to stem from processes that are intuitive, reflexive, and even automatic. These observations suggest that our understanding of prosociality should be revised to include the possibility that, in many cases, prosocial behavior-instead of requiring active control over our impulsesre-presents an impulse of its own.
Much research in social psychology has shown that otherwise helpful people often fail to help when bystanders are present. Research in developmental psychology has shown that even very young children help and that the presence of others can actually increase helping in some cases. In the current study, in contrast, 5-year-old children helped an experimenter at very high levels when they were alone but helped significantly less often in the presence of bystanders who were potentially available to help. In another condition designed to elucidate the mechanism underlying the effect, children's helping was not reduced when bystanders were present but confined behind a barrier and thus unable to help (a condition that has not been run in previous studies with adults). Young children thus show the bystander effect, and it is due not to social referencing or shyness to act in front of others but, rather, to a sense of a diffusion of responsibility. © The Author(s) 2015.
In the context of either a two- or four-person group discussion via an intercom system, female Ss overheard either a high- or low-status group member undergo an asthma attack. The prediction deriving from Latané and Darley′s model-that reporting of the emergency would be quicker in the two- than in the four-person group-was supported. The prediction that independent of group size reporting would be quicker when the victim was high status, rather than low, was not.