Harvard Kennedy School Harvard University

Search this site

Faculty Research Working Paper Series
Todd L. Pittinsky
Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government
Global Bystander Non-Intervention: Cross-Level Insights on Cross-National Helping.
Pittinsky, Todd L., and Tina Matic. "Global Bystander Non-Intervention: Cross-Level Insights on Cross-National Helping." KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP05-006, February 2005.
Why don't people in rich nations do more to help people in poor nations? Large disparities in material well-being across the globe are sobering. Nearly 800 million people do not get enough food, leaving nearly one third of the world's children malnourished (United Nations Development Programme, 1999). Equally sobering are the relatively low rates of helping on the part of governments and individuals in the world's wealthy countries. The developed world repeatedly fails to hit aid targets, giving on average only a third of the goals (United Nations Statistics Division, 2003). A large body of psychological research has addressed bystander non-intervention. In this paper, a cross-level review, we frame the scientific study of the phenomenon of a low level of cross-national helping as a form of bystander non-intervention: global bystander non-intervention. We review and conceptually analyze the work done on bystander non-intervention, identify the mechanisms that inhibit helping, and examine their applicability to understanding and promoting helping across national groups. The promises and limitations of the work to date are examined. In this way, a large body of psychological literature is leveraged to catalyze research and theory towards cross-national helping in a world of great disparity in material well-being.



Copyright © 2017 The President and Fellows of Harvard College