Induced Competence and the Bystander Effect

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23 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that people are slower to offer help in an emergency when there are other bystanders present than when there are not. It was proposed that exposing subjects to information about treatment of medical emergencies (i.e., experimentally‐induced competence) would decrease this effect. Female college students either did or did not watch a series of public‐service films on medical emergencies under the pretext of evaluating the films' relative effectiveness. Three weeks later, subjects participated in an experiment in which an ostensible co‐subject experienced a choking fit and then fell silent. Subjects who had not viewed the films were slower to respond if they believed themselves to be in 6‐member groups than if they believed themselves to be in 2‐member groups. In contrast, subjects who had viewed the films responded quickly regardless of perceived group size. High competent subjects also responded more quickly than low competent subjects in a condition where another co‐subject gave evidence of being high in competence. Results from a 6‐week follow‐up group indicated, however, that the induced competence was not permanent. Discussion centers on the theoretical implications of the findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-111
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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