Publisher: University of Calabar

Bystander Effect and Religious Group Affiliation: Terrorism and The Diffusion of Responsibility

Thomas Schillinger
KEYWORDS: Bystander Effect, Bystander Intervention, Terrorism, Religious Conflict


The collective nature of group affiliation may inhibit an individual from exhibiting prosocial behavior regarding acts of religiously-motivated terror.  This study’s purpose was to investigate the nature of bystander intervention as it relates to religious group affiliation. Darley and Latane’s bystander effect theory provided the theoretical framework for this study.  The research questions examined the impact of religious group affiliation and group size on the dependent variables of civic moral disengagement (CMD) and commitment to the war on terror (CWT).  Three validated survey instruments were administered to a random participant pool of 206 respondents. An ANCOVA and Spearman’s rho correlation were employed to address the research questions. Findings revealed that neither religious group affiliation nor group size significantly predicts either CWT or CMD after controlling for the degree of religious commitment.  Further research should test alternative theories associated with leadership and group dynamics.  Positive social change is advanced by acknowledging that bystanders to acts of terrorism may not be influenced by factors such as group affiliation or size of religious group affiliations. These findings underscore the complexity of the relationship between behavior and religious affiliation. Policy makers and future researchers may benefit by redirecting their focus for prevention and intervention toward influences such as the motivational dynamic between religious leaders and their followers.

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