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Early Professional Life
Bibb Latane was born in New York City on July 19th, 1937. He studied at Yale and received a Bachelor’s in Behavior and Culture. He continued his studies at the University of Minnesota where he earned his Ph.D. in Psychology. Soon after, Latane took a teaching job at Columbia University and developed the Theory of Social Impact with John Darley, which explained the division of responsibility among groups. He received several distinguished awards for his work, including the Richard M. Elliot Memorial Award and the AAAS Behavioral Science Award. Latane later accepted a position at Ohio State University as a Professor of Psychology. Latane also taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and acted as Director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences. He then took a position at Florida Atlantic University as the Chair of Psychology. Latane is best known for his theory on the passive bystander effect. Working with Barley, Latane published The Unrepsonsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t he Help? in 1970, which described his theory as it relates to an individual’s behavior when responding to circumstances. Among his accomplishments are the Center for Human Science in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, an organization that he founded, and receipt of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.
Contribution to Psychology
Developed by Latane and John Barley, the passive bystander effect identifies the specific stages an individual goes through while determining how to, and if they will, respond to circumstances. The theory states that an individual will first become aware of the fact that something is occurring and try to define the situation. They will take some responsibility, make a conscious decision of what to do and then proceed to act accordingly. The bystander effect assumes that in an emergency situation, in particular, a person acting alone is more likely to offer help than a group of individuals. Relying on the theory of social impact, Latane states that the larger the group, the less responsibility an individual assumes. This effect is most clearly demonstrated in emergencies.
The theory offers several explanations as to why this dynamic exists. First, when someone is within a group, they maintain a level of anonymity and are not called on singularly to aid. Additionally, people may be fearful of being ridiculed or embarrassed if they offer inadequate help, or unnecessary help, in front of others. This theory has had a significant impact on social psychology and social influence.
Book by Bibb Latane