Skip to main content
The Cove

WONCO-A Podcast – Bystander Behaviour

In this brief podcast Warrant Officer Michael Coggan from WONCO-A, reminds us that in order to maintain our standards we must have the moral courage to correct faults, even if they are minor, and not let ourselves become victims of bystander behaviour (and the belief that somebody else will take action) – we must develop a bias for action.

About bystander behaviour

The development of the theory of the ‘bystander effесt’ began following the rape and murder of Catherine (Kitty) Genovese in 1964 New York. According to Cook[1] , this occurrence brought about the need for research on the bystander еffесt. The case involved the stabbing death of Kitty in front of her apartment building in the presence of about 38 witnesses. The attack lasted approximately 40 minutes and during this time none of the witnesses took any significant action to save her. It was after the attack and subsequent high profile murder trial that Latane and Darley[2] proposed their renowned process model associated with giving or providing assistance (Process Model of Help-Giving). The model dictates that a spectator who witnesses a crisis occurrence ought to progress through some sequential steps before intervening in any way. In Kitty’s case, Latane and Darley stated that the witnesses involved failed to intervene since there were too many of them present at the scene. Thus, the bystander еffесt is based on the belief that people are usually less willing to intervene in situations where more other passive individuals are present.

[1] Cook, K., 2014, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America. New York: WW Norton & Company.

[2] .Latané, B; Darley, J.M. (1968). “Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.



The Cove is a professional development site for the Australian Profession of Arms. The views expressed within individual blog posts and videos are those of the author, and do not reflect any official position or that of the author’s employees – see more here. Any concerns regarding this blog post, video or resource should be directed in the first instance to

Join the discussion