Murder Shrouded In Confusion

Posted by M ws On Thursday, July 4, 2013 0 comments
Around 3:30 the morning of March 13, 1964, one of the most infamous murders in American history occurred when Winston Moseley stabbed Catherine “Kitty” Genovese to death in Queens, New York. While the murder was awful enough, what shocked America were reports that 38 neighbors witnessed the assault and heard her screams—yet no one lifted a finger to help her or even bothered to call the police. Nearly 50 years later, there is still a great deal of confusion surrounding this murder case.

The basic facts are clear enough. Around 3:15 the morning of March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Genovese returned from her job managing a bar, parked her car about 100 feet from the door to her apartment building, and began walking home. Moseley (who later confessed to killing her and two other women) was a mentally unstable 29-year-old who was driving around that night looking for a victim because he had “an urge to kill.” He came upon Genovese at random and attacked her—three times, actually.

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The above case illustrates the bystander effect which is the idea that “the greater the number of bystanders who witness an emergency, the less likely any of them is to help the victim” (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2010, pg. 339).

Two major factors influencing why people don’t help victims in an emergency are pluralistic ignorance and the diffusion of responsibility. Pluralistic ignorance is when in an ambiguous situation, people look to others before deciding whether or not to act. Many times, people will assume nothing is wrong because no one else acts, when in fact, something really is wrong; they misinterpret the situation.

In the case of Kitty Genovese, for example, people may have figured everything was all right since no one seemed too concerned.

The diffusion of responsibility says that as the number of bystanders increases, each bystander’s sense of responsibility to help decreases (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2010, pg. 341).

Looking at the case of Kitty Genovese, since there were so many neighbors, people most likely had a decreased sense of individual responsibility, thinking that they didn’t need to help when there were so many others around that could help. (FROM HERE)

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