Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pluralistic Ignorance

Recently I came across news of David Sharp, a British who died in bone freezing climate of Himalayas. He was on his way to reach the top of the world, the mount Everest.
So many climbers have noticed him in the death zone (zone above 26,000 ft); he was almost dead (physically) and nobody was willing to help him. At a moment when people are trying to conquer the world, nobody had time for David Sharp.
More than 40 climbers crossed him and continued their ascent. Most of them are reported to be found him on descent as well. Many talked to him, many discussed what to do, but done helped him, Sharp's fate was to succumb to death.
Sir Edmund Hilary had said that humans have become too selfish to let the colleague die and still continue to reach the top; the one stop destination for fame and glory. Does this state what he said or is it an instance of bystander effect - When there is an emergency, the more bystanders there are, the less likely it is that any of them will actually help?

Bystander effect and Pluralistic Ignorance are psychological phenomenon. There is only less chance of a person to get involved in an emergency situation if there are lots of bystanders and the chances are more if he is alone.
Each and every one assume that somebody is going to intervene. Next assumption is he / she is different from others and hence their thoughts are different. They also think there may be a more qualified person in the group to offer help and hence he / she can carry on. All human beings think this way and finally nobody offers help.

There are instances of goodness and humanity in the Mt. Everest; people helping others struggling to be alive...
Australian climber Lincoln Hall was taken back from the claws of death by an expedition team who were ascending the peak. Hall was in a state of what can be called semi-unconsiousness, the brain being deprived of oxygen for longer durations.

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