The Defusion of Responsibility

When reading this article I automatically thought of what is known in psychology as the bystander effect. This phenomenon is when people do not act upon a situation and may assume that someone else will take care of an issue at hand. The sad thing is there is a strong correlation between response time and crowd numbers. The larger the crowd is then slower the response time, and the smaller the crowd, the quicker the response time. I think that Simmel would say that people have become so desensitized to the world, they no longer feel a sense of urgency or readiness, and if people are pulled out of the grey into action, they may become frantic and will not know what to do. I think that this applies to Simmel’s blasé outlook because, simply, it seems like a lot of people are not able to handle a steady flow of sensory interactions, and therefore people respond by becoming blasé. It would seem unmanageable to say hello to every single individual on a path, so people do not say greetings at all. The fact that in this article, that the person was a homeless man plays into the blasé. For example, in Richmond we constantly see the homeless, and if a person where to be lying on the ground, people might think “Maybe they are taking a nap,” and we do not get involved.  To Simmel this outlook is toxic because people begin to generalize everything, and do not take the individual into account.

4 thoughts on “The Defusion of Responsibility”

  1. I really liked your post, and I agree with you! While reading the article, I had not thought of the bystander effect, but you are spot on. This is a prime example of that, and in a way I feel that the blase outlook from over stimulation has caused the bystander effect to be as drastic as it is today, like the example given in the article. There is so much going on around us all the time that we begin to grey things out and only focus on ourselves.

  2. I like your phrasing “people are not able to handle a steady flow of sensory interactions”. In particular, sensory actions that potentialize choices. I also thought of the bystander effect, and in particular the famous case of Kitty Genovese (prior to its being explicitly mentioned in the article). I think that you’re also right to note possible rationalizations for not getting involved that will come up in peoples minds. I’m not sure, but I think that that might be separate from the blasé attitude because they have gotten as far as actually making a choice, whereas blasé would be to simply fail to engage in the choice in the first place. Another common rationalization people might use is to apply the common misconception that homeless people are drug addicts and the person might be high, and therefore dangerous. Just some thoughts.

  3. The bystander effect seems like a pretty good explanation for what happened in New York that day. People usually think a situation or a problem will be managed by some other and that it will eventually be taken care of. I feel there is also a fear among people when it comes to handling an adverse situation. They are afraid they’ll handle it wrong or do something to negatively effect the situation and just simply can’t handle the pressure put out forth by whats going on.

  4. I agree with this post and thought it was pretty cool how you tied in the diffusion of the responsibility of others. Simmel would be upset at how powerful the role of money in an individual life is. If we were not as concerned with money or not as much access to it like someone who is homeless, we would be able to relate with them more. This is hard to balance because we do generalize things and put them to the back burner compared to other tasks that interest us.

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