COLUMBIA, Mo. — In December of last year the New York Post published images of a man about to be killed by a train while several bystanders did little to help him. Numerous studies have provided evidence that people are less likely to help when in groups, a phenomenon known as the “bystander effect.” Those studies examined situations where only one person was needed to take action to help another. A University of Missouri anthropologist recently found that even when multiple individuals can contribute to a common cause, the presence of others reduces an individual’s likelihood of helping. This research has numerous applications, including possibly guiding the fundraising strategies of charitable organizations.
“In our study, individuals who didn’t want to share money tended to influence others to not share money,” said Karthik Panchanathan, assistant professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. “We don’t know what psychological mechanism caused that, but perhaps potential givers did not want to be ‘suckers,’ who gave up their money while someone else got away with giving nothing. Selfish behavior in others may have given individuals an opportunity to escape any moral obligation to share that they might have felt.” (more…)