Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"And 100 Stood By and Watched"

Today's pet peeve comes in reporting of public acts of violence, and bystanders not intervening. Generally, some horrible act occurs in the public square, and the news accounts inform us that "one hundred people looked on but did not intervene" or something like that. The Kitty Genovese murder is the archetypical case, but you hear it pretty frequently. The implication is amazement at how many people could be so callous and uncaring -- could not one of them have the decency to stop the atrocity?

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to a social psychology phenomenon known, conveniently enough, as the Bystander Effect. The Bystander Effect tells us that people are less likely to render aid to those in need when there are many other people around than when they are alone, and the effect is compounded based on how many bystanders are present. So, if C observes A beating up B and C is the only other person present, C is far more likely to intercede than if C is there with a dozen other people present (and even more likely than that if there are a hundred witnesses). There are several reasons for the effect, mostly having to do with issues of conformity, but it is a pretty robust finding.

So the next time you see a story like this and conclude that "wow, one hundred people and not a halfway decent human among them", remember your psychology and think for a moment. Now you're more educated.

We've Got Spirit, Yes We Do!

Oklahoma City apparently bans wearing clothing that is not supportive of their state's college sports teams.
On the list of banned items, non-Oklahoma college dress falls directly in between gang symbol haircuts and "satanic cult dress, witchcraft and related symbols."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Akin's Remaining Friends

In the wake of Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's (R) comments that women who are victims of "legitimate" rape don't get pregnant, it's been gratifying to see a large number of GOPers looking to cut Akin loose (e.g., Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)). Sure a goodly portion of it is the belief that Akin's about to cost them a likely Senate pick-up in Missouri, but the bare recognition of the fact that sometimes lunatic craziness has electoral consequences is a big step for the GOP compared to 2010.

But don't shed too many tears for Akin. It's not like he's wholly without friends. The Family Research Council released a statement saying that while they "don’t know anything about the science" (... but I repeat myself), Akin is assuredly the real victim here of the dreaded "gotcha politics". Meanwhile, across the pond George Galloway wants you to know that even if Julian Assange is guilty of everything he's alleged to have done, it's clearly nothing more than "bad sexual etiquette." To call it "rape", Galloway claims, would " bankrupt the term rape of all meaning."

I sense a new group of besties forming....