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Power of Situations Essay

In the,” The power of situations”, by Lee Ross and Richard E. Nisbett, the authors are trying to show the power of situations effecting the decisions of the people, how people react in different situations. The authors are trying to prove that social psychology rivals philosophy in teaching people that they do not understand the true nature of the world. The above claim is supported by two experiments, the Good Samaritan experiment by Darley and Batson, and the bystander effect experiment. The authors purpose was to prove how situations effect out actions, they were successful in proving it by acquiring such positive results in both of the experiments. The authors argue the difference in the point of view of the undergraduates and graduates of social psychology about the human behavior. Undergraduates who while taking their courses finds many facts about human behavior, it makes them feel satisfied with information, whereas graduates who have studied the human behavior for a long time have a challenged point of view towards the causes of human behavior than undergraduates.

According to the authors small detail in an incident does not matter, what matters is the situation in which the incident took place. Authors argue about how the social psychology surpasses philosophy while making a decision. Even graduate students with years of experience, are not certain in predicting human behavior under peer pressure. In the end the authors talk about the “fundamental attribution error” it says that people who consider the personality traits and common tendencies in predicting the human behavior are proven wrong. They often fail to take into consideration the situational factors that affect the behavior. The bystander effect is used by the authors to prove that predicting ones behavior is impossible if we take into considerations the insignificant details. In this experiment the subject is John who is put in a situation in which he sees a man by the door asking for help, we are supposed to predict the behavior of John.

A normal person would take into consideration the specific details of the situation and predict the behavior; this will result into a wrong prediction, the details of the circumstance does not helps predicting johns behavior, only the situation and the actions of other bystander is considered while predicting ones behavior. The author is successful in proving the bystander effect on a person in any situation. There are many other experiments conducted world-wide proving the effect of bystander intervention. One of the most famous experiments was one conducted by Latane and Darley, in which participants were kept in a room and smoke was released in it, the percent of participants who reported the smoke decreased as the participants increased in a room.

A special thing about this bystander effect is that: the more bystanders present when help is needed, the less assistance any of them will provide. The authors have mentioned another experiment conducted by Darley and Batson named “The Good Samaritan” experiment. It is a study of how people react to an emergency in different situations and levels of urgency. The researchers had three hypotheses to prove via this experiment:

1. People who are religious does not act any different those who are not, in a situation.

2. People in a hurry are less likely to help others.

3. People who are religions in a Samaritan fashion will be more likely to help than those who are not. The researches gave a task to certain amount of people, and on their way going the other side of building, they were faced with an emergency situation, and the researchers were to record how many participants helped in that situation. The results of this experiment were very promising regarding one of the hypotheses, that people in a hurry are less likely to help others. The results proved that no matter how we think about a situation, our actions are not the same.

Other thing that authors point-out is the “Fundamental attribution error” it means that people always try to predict a human behavior by observing their personality-traits, rather than observing the situational factors. Observing personal traits never help in predicting someone’s actions, it is the situational factors that help us predict human behavior.

There are many other experiments by different researches which concurs with the claim of Ross and Nisbett, that how the situations affects the human behavior, and by manipulating the situation, we can change the outcome of behavior, some of them are, Sherif’s “Autokinetic Paradigm” showed how group dynamics can influence group behavior, Solomon Asch’s experiment of social pressure, Tajfel showed that even the mere classification of people into groups can elicit partisan group behavior. The results and statistics of the authors claim were very accurate, and well supported by other researchers.

WORKS CITED
The Bystander Effect, Web. 1 Jan. 2010. <http://sociologyiu09.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/bystander-effect/>

Darley, J. M., and Batson, C.D., “From Jerusalem to Jericho”: A study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior”. JPSP, 1973, 27, 100-108.

Ross, L., and Nisbett, R. E., The Person and the Situation, 1991. Chapters 1 and 2.


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