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Would You Be the First Person to Do The Right Thing?

C33-zl_W8AEx5Z-A crowd of people board a subway car and discover nazi symbolism written everywhere.  One person stood up and started cleaning it off. His courage enabled everyone else to stand up and help until all of it was gone.


This would make for a great class discussion on the role of conformity (the Asch study), which showed that conformity drops dramatically when only one person decides not to go along with the group's decision.


Personality: what kind of personality traits would make some most and least likely to stand up and take the first action? The Big Five traits:

Openness to Experience

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When all the passengers first sat down and saw the graffitti they all looked at each other and nobody did anything.  


The train was silent as everyone stared at each other, uncomfortable and unsure what to do.




Read about this event by copying and pasting this link into another tab in your web browser:
1. Would you be the first person to get up and start erasing the swastikas and other negative remarks?
2. What have we learned so far in class that might explain why you might be hesitant to get up?
3. What can we do to overcome the social forces and get people to "do the right thing"?



Here's a good point made by the video below: while being the first to take action is important, being second is also really important too.  Once two people have taken action, most of the rest of the crowd will now feel more emboldened to do the same thing.




@Stacy_Holliday and @diane_carter: would love to hear your thoughts on this amazing event!


Original Story:


Tweet: Bystander Apathy: Would YOU act first if this happened to you? #psychology

NOTE: the topic of conformity is discussed in Nevid (Essentials of Psychology) on pages 475-476.


Hey Michael,

What a timely illustration! While I am communication faculty rather than psychology, I can totally see myself using this in my conflict communication class as a current example of conflict metaphors, to start a discussion on the perceptual roots of conflict or interests and goals...the list goes on!


Thanks Dianne.  The "perceptual roots of conflict" - not familiar with it but if you or the class come up with some interesting connections/views on this event I'd love to hear about them!

Valued Contributor

I love this!  I have used the leadership video (first follower) often, in courses, but also in our Leadership Academy for faculty and staff.  


Similar to this NY example, there is almost a plethora of fresh content (practical examples) of psych concepts in our current political environment; aversive racism, ultimate attribution error, narcissism, just to name a few.  I love that in MindTap we can insert these current articles and other resources immediately within our course, to connect content with the practical examples that engage students with our content in ways that makes the course truly relevant for them.  I would love to hear others thoughts on current resources they're using in courses, any articles or other examples like this one.  

Thank you for sharing the video on, "Leadership." I find that it is applicable to all disciplines. This video and the questions that follow would be a good activity for the Silent Socratic Dialogue or discussion board posts. Some of our students are so hesitant to stand up for what they know is right. It is more comfortable to, "look the other way."


Essie: Glad you liked that video on Leadership. The video makes a great point about how important it is to stand up and get involved in order to get otheres to get moving too.


I'm curious - what do  you mean by the "Silent Socratic Dialogue"?