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Bystander helping in response to a staged incident of cyberaggression




McDonald, James Ney, author
Henry, Kimberly, advisor
Aloise-Young, Patricia, advisor
Martey, Rosa, committee member

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The recent emergence of cyberbullying as a serious problem stands as a reminder that basic principles of social psychology should be retested and re-evaluated in emergent contexts to demonstrate their enduring value. This study sought to test the applicability of Darley & Latane's (1968) Bystander Effect in a chat-room environment. Participants were admitted to a chat-room ostensibly for a series of informal debates which a researcher would record and analyze later as part of an observational study in online communication patterns. Chats included one participant and either 2 (control condition) or 4 (bystander condition) non-participant characters (NPCs) whom the participant was led to believe were other participants. The researcher assigned two of the NPCs to debate informally and then left. In both conditions, the two NPCs engaged in discussion, until one began bullying the other by persistently attacking him with insults, even after the victim voiced distress and asked the attacker to stop. In the bystander condition, the two additional NPCs remained logged in throughout the bullying episode, but took no action to support or discourage the bullying. Participants, free to comment or contact the researcher, demonstrated a clear inclination towards altruism, but the bystander effect was still evident. Participants in the bystander condition were significantly less likely to intervene by attempting to defuse the conflict in the chat, defending the victim, attacking the bully, or contacting the researcher about the problem, OR = 0.39, p = .03, 95% CI [0.17, 0.90], n = 111. Participant suspicion and methodological constraints limit the conclusions that can be drawn from this study, but it supports speculation that the bystander effect may be present but less inhibitory in an online environment.


2012 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

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bystander effect


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