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“Supergran” & Kitty G.

February 11, 2011

Today, CNN had a poll about stopping crime on the street.  The question went something like “Would you stop a crime on the street if you saw it happening?” or something like that.  Instead of answering, I looked at the results.  Over 71% said they would intervene. Yeah, right.  I immediately thought of Kitty Genovese, the New York citizen who was brutally murdered while her neighbors watched and did nothing. Not one of them called 911. This case is often used in psychology classes (yes even my own) as an example of the “bystander effect” which is: the more people who are around when somebody needs help, the less likely any one person will be to help, because everybody assumes somebody else will handle the problem.

I read today on CNN.com of ‘supergran’ the granny who beat up six armed men with her handbag.  These men were robbing a Rolex store in broad daylight while Londoners went about their merry way, to work, to get coffee, or to further pretend they didn’t see these men with sledgehammers swinging them at the windows of the store.

Out of the corner of the video screen, you can see the 70+ year old granny in her red coat, barreling towards the Rolex windows. She immediately starts decking them with her handbag.  Meanwhile, everyone on the street seems to be watching, or going about their business as usual. Not one person ran to Granny’s aid until the burglars began trying to escape on their scooters.

I also thought about the night when at my own apartment, there was an incident involving a male firing his gun into the air. Both Jesse and I were very frightened, but called the police anyway. The operator who answered told us that many of our neighbors had also called 911 as well.  When I first came across Supergran’s video, I thought maybe that this would be somewhat like my own neighbors. Luckily, I think from that incident I may have struck a lucky charm with my own neighbors, who would surely call 911 during an incident, as they did that night.  Which leads me to today’s moral… not everyone in the world is bad, but some things certainly don’t change.  Doing the right thing is much more important than the choices of a group as a whole, but as plenty of psychologists have pondered for years, people will still fall abundantly to the bystander effect.  Sadly, it’s proven true year after year! Remember when your parents used to ask, “If your friend’s jumped off a bridge, does that mean you’d do it too?” No, because most of us are smarter than that! Do the right thing…

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