Ep 274: Be the First To Act – or the Second – Both Are Great

MichaelSocial PsychologyLeave a Comment

Complete strangers in New York City come together in a simple but moving act: they decide as a group to work together to remove offensive graffiti in a subway car. How did they overcome the social pressures to do nothing? In this episode I show how diffusion of responsibility, Modeling, the Big Five personality types and Social Identity theory were at play in this simple but wonderful few minutes on a subway car.

Additional Resources

  • A blog post I wrote on this topic that has some further suggestions for instructors: Change won’t require a village – just one or two people
  • First hand account of the incident from one of the subway train riders.
  • I got on the subway in Manhattan tonight and found a Swastika on every advertisement and every window. The train was silent as everyone stared at each other, uncomfortable and unsure what to do.
    One guy got up and said, “Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.” He found some tissues and got to work.
    I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purel. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.

  • NBC news: New York Commuters Unite To Remove Anti-Semitic Graffiti On Subway
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