Pluralistic ignorance in the bystander effect: informational dynamics of unresponsive witnesses in situations calling for intervention

Synthese 191 (11):2471-2498 (2014)
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Abstract
The goal of the present paper is to construct a formal explication of the pluralistic ignorance explanation of the bystander effect. The social dynamics leading to inaction is presented, decomposed, and modeled using dynamic epistemic logic augmented with ‘transition rules’ able to characterize agent behavior. Three agent types are defined: First Responders who intervene given belief of accident; City Dwellers, capturing ‘apathetic urban residents’ and Hesitators, who observe others when in doubt, basing subsequent decision on social proof. It is shown how groups of the latter may end in a state of pluralistic ignorance leading to inaction. Sequential models for each agent type are specified, and their results compared to empirical studies. It is concluded that only the Hesitator model produces reasonable results.
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