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John M. Darley (born April 3, 1938) is a distinguished American social psychologist, who has made contributions to the study of helping behaviour. Currently, he is a professor of psychology at Princeton University's Department of Psychology.
Darley studied at Swarthmore College from 1956 to 1960, obtaining his Bachelor's degree (1960), and later attended Harvard University, from which he obtained his Master's degree in 1962 and his Ph.D. in 1965, under the supervision of Elliot Aronson.
Darley is best known, in collaboration with Bibb Latané, for looking at why people do not always intervene (i.e. offer aid) at the scene of an emergency, a research interest largely stemming from the tragic case of Kitty Genovese, the New Yorker who was murdered in a New York suburb in March 1964 in the presence of 38 witnesses.
Experimental research with Latané persuaded Darley that, other things being equal, more people present at the scene of an emergency could lead to reduced likelihood that any one would help, for two reasons:
- Pluralistic ignorance, the assumption that because no one is helping, everything must be all right and
- Diffusion of responsibility, a diminished sense of personal responsibility when others are present.
Since 1980, further experiments by social psychologists have suggested important qualifications to this general rule, and identified conditions where increasing bystander numbers at the scene of an emergency may actually increase the likelihood of helping. One of Darley's most distinguished Ph.D. students has been Daniel Batson.
- Latané, B., & Darley, J. M. (1970). The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn't he help? New York: Appleton-Century-Croft