Thingish Things

The Genovese Syndrome

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Feb• 18•11

Forty-seven years ago in Kew Gardens, Queens Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death over an extended period of time.  Dozens of neighbors heard her cries for help, but no one called the police.  The incident prompted many studies — and the naming of a quirky human phenomenon now called the Genovese Syndrome or the Bystander Effect.  What the studies found is that humans are less likely to come to a stranger’s rescue when other people are around.  They assume someone else will help.  The more people present, the less likely any of them are to assist.

I once heard a New York City police officer instruct attendees at a community meeting during a crime wave to yell “fire” if they are ever accosted in the street late at night.  An individual cry for help can be ignored or chalked up as horseplay, he explained, but “fire” gets people’s attention.  It can spread and affect them, so they will make a call.

The disturbing video above from the Today Show was just posted by a friend on Facebook.  I thought I’d post it here as well, just to remind all of us, including me, not to listen to ourselves when we hear cries for help, but to remember the lessons learned from Kitty Genovese.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Me says:

    That is unbelievably horrible. I simply cannot understand all those people walking away–especially the woman who apparently knew something bad was happening but figured that “someone else” would handle it. Are you kidding me?

  2. Challutz says:

    I remeber that story from high school. still sticks with me. It’s the truth and still goes on today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.