Be Responsible? Priming “Responsibility” and the Bystander Effect in a Field Setting


Student Authors:

Danielle Kupersmith '20, Gettysburg College

Nevada Keyton '20, Gettysburg College

Matthew Simmers '22, Gettysburg College

Sara Walker '20, Gettysburg College

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1



The bystander effect reveals that people are less likely to help a person in need when others are present. We examined the impact of priming the concept of responsibility on the bystander effect in a field study. Lone pedestrians (N = 259) were randomly assigned to a two (Bystanders: none and three nonresponsive bystanders) by two (Shirt: blank shirt and shirt with “Be Responsible” written on the front) design. A researcher dropped eight pens approximately 15 ft from a lone pedestrian, while wearing one of the two shirts in the presence/absence of bystanders (confederates). The bystander effect was found: Pedestrians helped pick up pens more frequently in the no bystanders condition (59.05% helped) compared to the nonresponsive bystanders condition (41.67% helped). The responsibility prime tended to boost helping rates, but it did not significantly increase helping rates either as a main effect or as part of an interaction term. The bystander effect was replicated in a field setting, but priming the concept of responsibility did not appear to reduce it.



Required Publisher's Statement

This article is available from the publisher's website.

This item is not available in The Cupola.