Kitty Genovese

On this day, 46 years ago (March 13, 1964), Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York City. The killing, and the publicity that followed from it, kicked off a new area of social psychology focused on the intervention (or not) of bystanders to emergency situations. Initial reports were that dozens (most typically, 38) people had watched the 3:00 am attack from their apartment windows, and that no one attempted to help the victim, or even call the police.

The case has been written up this way in many psychology textbooks. Later research, however, revealed that things were not as originally stated in the newspapers of the day. At least one witness did shout at the attacker, driving him off for a time. Others called the police, who were initially unable to find any sign of the crime. The victim staggered away to a secluded stairwell, far from the eyes and ears of potential witnesses, where she was eventually found by the attacker, who resumed his assault, resulting in Ms. Genovese’s death.

The corrected story can be found, among other places, in:

Manning, R., Levine, M., & Collins, A. (2007). The Kitty Genovese murder and the social psychology of helping: The parable of the 38 witnesses. American Psychologist, 62(6), 555-562. (DOI 10.1037/0003-066X.62.6.555)

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

4 thoughts on “Kitty Genovese

  1. In the Dalton Camp Lecture Series, aired on CBC’s Ideas, June Callwood makes reference to Ms. Genovese murder, how the writer dealt with that event, and how it caused a “seismic shift in attitude” in its readers.

    You may be able to get that lecture (which is brilliant) by visiting:

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