Merely Bystanders: The Psychology of Courage and Inaction

Catherine Sanderson – Amherst College

The Psychology of Courage & Taking Action

Why do good people so often do nothing when a seemingly small action could make a big difference? A pioneering social psychologist, Catherine Sanderson, explains why moral courage is so rare, and reveals how it can be triggered or trained. We are bombarded every day by reports of bad behavior, from sexual harassment to political corruption and bullying belligerence. It’s tempting to blame evil acts on evil people, but that leaves the rest us off the hook. Silence, after all, can perpetuate cruelty. This class draws on the latest developments in psychology and neuroscience to tackle an urgent question: Why do so many of us fail to intervene when we’re needed—and what would it take to make us step up?

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