Would you leave someone to die?

The greater the number of people present the less likely you are to help.

 A two-year-old girl, Yue Yue, wandering in the street in a market in Foshan, China, was hit by a van. The driver stopped for a moment and continued on, rolling over the girl again with the van’s rear wheels. Over the course of the next seven minutes, as she lay in the street bleeding, 17 passersby walked over and around her—one truck ran over her again—without helping.


Eventually a trash collector stopped to look after the girl and call an ambulance.  Amongst those who ignored her were a cyclist and someone with their own child!

The incident was captured on surveillance cameras and aired on local media.


It is extremely upsetting.


Thousands of pounds were donated to her family to help pay for treatment but Yue Yue died of brain and organ failure. Her injuries were too severe and the treatment had no effect. The parents have said that they will ensure all donations go to helping others (source).

People say the reason is they are too scared, blaming extortion attempts by people who have accused Good Samaritans of causing their injuries; and that they feared it was a scam and they may incur costs. Such as in the case of Peng Yu, who helped an injured elderly lady to hospital was then found by a court to be liable for some of her medical costs.


Another case – in which an elderly woman believed to have fallen in the road accused a man, Xu Yunhe, who stopped to help her, of hitting her with his car – also attracted considerable attention.

China is now considering passing a Good Samaritan Law to help protect people who help strangers from being sued


Previous Classic Social Psychology Examples

The Case of Kitty Genovese

Friday, March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was returning home from work. As she approached her apartment entrance (in Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York), she was attacked and stabbed by a man later identified as Winston Moseley .


He stabbed her twice as she hurried past a bookstore on Austin Street, headed to a local bar named Bailey’s to seek assistance. She called out, “Oh my God. He stabbed me. Please help me,” and fell to the ground. Winston was leaning over her to stab her again, when he heard a man’s voice calling from a window in an apartment building across the street, “Leave that girl alone!”

Startled, Mosley ran down an alley, got into his car, and backed up, ready to drive off. Lights had gone on in the nearby apartment building, but they went off again. Mosley got out of the car and again followed Genovese, who had reached the doorway of her apartment building, which was in the back of the building at 82-62 Austin Street. As she fell forward through the doorway, crying out, “I’m dying, I’m dying,” Winston caught up with her, stabbed her again, and then raped her. A short time later, a neighbor, Greta Schwartz, who had called the police after receiving a phone call from another neighbor, ran down to the lobby and cradled Kitty in her lap until the paramedics arrived.

Despite Genovese’s repeated calls for help, none of the dozen or so people in the nearby apartment building who heard her cries called police to report the incident. The attack first began at 3:20 AM, but it was not until 3:50 AM that someone first contacted police.

There were 38 witnesses that claimed they just thought it was a lovers quarrel.


Diffusion of responsibility – less blame. Can think someone else might be better at handling the situation. Someone else will help – so I don’t need to.

Correct and socially acceptable ways – others aren’t responding it must mean a response isn’t required or appropriate.


In a series of classic studies, researchers Bibb Latane and John Darley (1969) in American Scientist, found that the amount of time it takes the participant to take action and seek help varies depending on how many other observers are in the room. In one experiment, subjects were placed in one of three treatment conditions: alone in a room, with two other participants or with two confederates who pretended to be normal participants.

As the participants sat filling out questionnaires, smoke began to fill the room. When participants were alone, 75% reported the smoke to the experimenters. In contrast, just 38% of participants in a room with two other people reported the smoke. In the final group, the two confederates in the experiment noted the smoke and then ignored it, which resulted in only 10% of the participants reporting the smoke.


Darley, J. M. & Latané, B. (1969). Bystander “apathy.” American Scientist, 57, 244-268.
Images used for illustrative purposes only