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The history of this tragedy changed psychology. 56 years ago Kitty Genovese was murdered

In the mid-1960s, New York was shaken by a tragedy that cast a shadow over the entire city. The story of the brutal murder of a young girl was so shocking that for years she inspired the actions of politicians, texts of journalists and experiments of psychologists. The story, which in its key elements turned out to be fake news, changed the reality and not just American.

For over half an hour, 38 respected, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched the killer following and stabbing a woman in three separate attacks at Kew Gardens - one of the most important fake news in the history of American journalism begins .

Death of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese and the apathy of the inhabitants of New York.

March 13, 1964 Kitty Genovese is brutally murdered. According to Abe Rosenthal describing this story, although her slow, half-hour tragedy was watched by almost 40 witnesses, all others were passive. The theme of the article, which shook the entire nation, was apathy.

People wondered how this was possible - not the murder itself, but the terrifying lack of reaction from witnesses. Blame was blamed on television, showing increasingly brutal scenes, blamed large cities where people lived side by side, but did not form a community, pointed to New York itself as a city of violence. The story of Kitty's death became a story of indifference, lack of reaction, and dehumanization of a society filled with apathy.

A story that was false from the very beginning.

Who will save the lady in trouble? And yourself?

Bibb Latane and John M. Darley did not believe this narrative. Psychologists decided to design an experiment that was to examine whether the inactivity of New Yorkers was behind the passivity of witnesses of the Kitty assassination. Judy Rodin, then a psychology student at Columbia University, recruited her university colleagues for an experiment. She led them to the building of the mathematics department, where the research was to take place, and asked them to complete the prepared questionnaires. When the subjects marked the appropriate boxes on the sheets, she herself went to the next room, where the small drama staged by the researchers began. Rodin said to herself that she had to take the book off the shelf. It was heard that he pulls a chair into the closet and climbs on it. Suddenly, loud rumor and scream reached the ears of the subjects, which suggested that the girl had fallen. It sounded terrible, there was a potentially serious accident just behind the screen.

The experiment was repeated several times - its result left no illusions. The key to responding to a potential accident was whether the subjects were sitting alone in the room or were there with others. In the first case, more often someone went to check if nothing happened to the girl.

It was not about the egoism of the witnesses of the alleged accident. Researchers observed similar reactions in other experiments modifying the basic scenario a bit. Their participants showed the same reluctance to react in the group when it came to their own safety. In one of the more well-known variants of this experiment, smoke began to appear in the room where they were in the study. If the subjects were alone in the room, they usually left the room in search of a person who could report a disturbing event, but if they were accompanied by someone who did not care about the smoke, they usually did not react, even when the smoke filled a large part of the room.

The conclusion from these and similar experiences contradicted common sense - it implied that the more witnesses of a crisis event are in place, the less likely someone is to respond to them.

After many years, Kitty's story sounds different.

Bill Genovese, Kitty's brother, unable to come to terms with the story described by the newspaper, began to check on his own what was happening tragic night in Queens. The truth was very different from what the police told journalists.

There were three attacks on Kitty, there were two. Only one was in the street, where potential witnesses could see him, but it was night, so most of them slept. It is also not true that no one intervened. Winston Moseley, Kitty's killer, fled at first after someone shouted from the window to leave the girl alone. It wasn't until later that he returned to do the work. Some of the residents of those houses at the time also say that they called the police - but the data shows that the officers got only one phone call that day, and only after Kitty was dead and the perpetrator was no longer at the scene. This does not necessarily mean that the witnesses are missing the truth - in the 1960s, no entries were as scrupulous as today.

The most important thing is that Kitty came to the rescue. Sophia Farrar, her neighbor, when she learned that the girl was attacked, the fugitive found her. Kitty was still alive then, and although it was too late to save, the girl died in her arms held by a friend.

Although Kitty's story was not true in many places, the lessons learned from it brought psychology to the fore.

Years later, we know that Kitty's story turned out to be largely colored. The devastating sentence of 38 witnesses who were murdered for half an hour by a young girl will remain in the annals of journalism as an example that even the head of police alone is not a great source of information. However, although the false, main premise of this story, inspired a series of experiments, the conclusions of which remain valid today.

The history of this tragedy changed psychology. 56 years ago Kitty Genovese was murdered


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