Tag Archives: Kitty Genovese

Kitty Genovese Documentary: The Detached Americans (1964)


For your Friday viewing pleasure, we present The Detached Americans a 1964 TV documentary on the Kitty Genovese case (see previous AHP posts on Genovese here). In 1964 Genovese was murdered and it was widely reported that numerous witnesses to the murder – as many as 38 – failed to intervene. The  case is often cited as the basis for what is known as the bystander effect in social psychology, whereby individuals fail to aid in emergency situations when others are present. This failure to help people in need is often attributed to a diffusion of responsibility, as it is assumed that others present will offer assistance. Happy viewing!

The Everlasting Myths of Gage & Genovese

The September 2012 issue of gradPSYCH magazine, published by the American Psychological Association, features an article entitled Psychology’s Tall Tales. The article describes two of the most persistent myths in psychology; those of Phineas Gage and Kitty Genovese (right). The true stories of what happened to Gage and Genovese have been discussed on AHP previously (here and here). In short, the personality changes experienced by Gage following his accident were not as severe as generally reported and during Genovese’s attack bystanders did in fact intervene in various ways.

In addition to recounting the details of these often perpetuated myths, the gradPSYCH article also point to an interesting audio source on the Genovese case. An interview with Genovese’s girlfriend at the time of her murder, Mary Ann Zielonko, can be heard on the Sound Portraits website. Interestingly, the interview begins by retelling the myth of Genovese’s attack. Click here to listen the full audio of that interview.

Kitty Genovese & Watchmen

Open Culture recently posted a video clip of the 1980s comic, Watchmen (above). The clip, Watchmen: Origins 13 – ‘Kitty Genovese’, features the case of Kitty Genovese as part of a character’s backstory. The character’s name? Rorschach.

The Genovese case is traditionally presented as the failure 38 neighbours to act while a young woman was murdered in New York City. It has attained mythic proportions in social psychology as an exemplar of the bystander effect and diffusion of responsibility. The veracity of the original report of Kitty Genovese case, in particular the inaction of her neighbours during her murder, was previously questioned in a 2007 American Psychologist article.

The Open Culture post on Kitty Genovese was prompted a recent news story about a teenager who was severely beaten in a Baltimore McDonald’s while employees not only failed to intervene, but videotaped the incidence. The post also points to a NPR interview with Joseph De May on the Genovese case, which may be of interest to AHP readers. (The interview is available as both an audio clip and a transcript.)

AHP‘s previous posts on Kitty Genovese and the bystander effect can be found here, here, here, and here.