Social Psychology

Episode 36: Kitty Genovese: What Really Happened?


Kitty Genovese: what you know about what happened to her is wrong.

Kitty Genovese was repeatedly attacked while others watched and did nothing – right?


While the story lead to a long and successful line of research in the area of bystander intervention and diffusion of responsibility, the facts of the story are incorrect.

What are the facts behind the Kitty Genovese case and if groups are so unlikely to help, how do you explain how people came together to help at 911? Let’s take another look at the legacy of this famous story in this episode.


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  1. White Policemen and Young Black Men - Discrimination or False Memory? | The Psych Files

    November 25, 2007

    […] Kitty Genovese: What Really Happened? […]

  2. Are Psychiatric Labels Harmful? | The Psych Files

    November 25, 2007

    […] Or do we find what we found back in episode 47 on Little Albert, and what we found in episode 36 on Kitty Genovese – what we thought we knew is largely […]

  3. Ep 253: How to Prevent Violence in Your Neighborhood | The Psych Files

    November 25, 2007

    […] Kitty Genovese: What Really Happened? […]

  4. Why and how do we help? | Improving Vocational Education and Training

    November 25, 2007

    […] fact by virtually all professors teaching about the case, it might surprise you to learn that the details of the story(link is external) weren’t 100% accurate. Some neighbors did try to help but many simply didn’t hear or […]

  5. Avatar


    November 25, 2007

    Hi Michael,

    I was listening to an audio version of Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence – Science and Practice’ this morning, in which he discussed the case of Kitty Genovese. It sparked a memory of this episode for me and I returned to your website to revisit it. I remember it being a fascinating episode, which shocked me, almost as much as the truth about ‘Little Albert’ in episode #47.

    I found the Manning, Levine & Collins article publicly available here –

    I also came across this interesting piece by Catherine Pelonero, the author of a relatively recent book on the subject, in which she criticises ’21st Century revisionism’ of the murder.

    She is quite forthright in her view ‘Their new-and-improved, it-really-wasn’t-so-bad-after-all version is based on a stubborn insistence that the original account was a myth invented by an overzealous reporter.’

    I haven’t read her book, so I can’t really comment on its content, but it might be of interest to you for a potential future episode?

    All the best,

  6. The NYC subway death and the bystander effect | Education by Credo

    November 25, 2007

    […] By the way, not everything you read or heard about the famous “Kitty Genovese” story is true. Listen to this episode from The Psych Files podcast: “Kitty Genovese – What Really Happened?”  […]

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