Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Lisa Dilks

Committee Co-Chair

Jason Manning

Committee Member

James Nolen


Sociologists, criminologists and psychologists have offered a number of theories to understand bystander intervention in emergency situations in general. Most notably, the bystander effect argues that as the number of bystanders to an incident increases, the less likely someone is to intervene. However, the likelihood of intervention could also be dependent on the personal biases of the observers. A bystander's contempt or dislike for particular victims (homosexuals, minorities, women, etc.) may influence his or her willingness to intervene. This research explores, through the use of vignette experiments, the extent to which a bystander's homophobia influences their willingness to intervene on behalf of a homosexual victim in a physical altercation. The research design also analyzes whether such biases interact with the presence (or absence) of other bystanders to the event. Understanding if there is a relationship between personal biases and bystander intervention contributes to our theoretical and empirical understanding of the bystander effect. The results show that bias does influence helping behaviors, and, in some scenarios, bias supersedes the strength of the bystander effect. Further, there seems to be a strong social desirability effect where participants are most likely to intervene on behalf of a gay victim as opposed to a straight victim, particularly when others are present. Results involving the participant's sex echoes previous literature. Finally, a new finding on the social desirability scale is found in two of the three types of intervention.