Ethics Expert Answers Your Questions

Keating: Oh, that's risky. Although touch can be comforting, it can also be perceived as a threat. And individuals who display hostile aggression can be less than choosy about their target. Besides, threat gestures such as lowered brow stares and arms akimbo can be quite effective in conveying dominance while keeping you further out of harm's way.

Stephanie wrote, "I feel that this [show] is sending a mixed message regarding someone's safety. As we have been taught prior to this message, we were told never to get too close or get involved due to the person possibly carrying a knife or a gun.

"How do we determine that it is safe? Do we take the chance and follow our instincts, or do we feel apprehensive to get involved because of what we see in the news on a daily basis? There are innocent bystanders who are injured everyday. A person who has made up their mind that this is the day they are going to end it with themselves or with others will go to the extreme to make sure it happens."

Keating: You are right in that intervening IS risky business. Each person needs to do their own calculus before stepping up and stepping in for at least two reasons: (1) You need to think about your own safety and that of those around you and, (2) You need to be able to successfully pull off the intervention. Having a sound plan is essential in most cases.

Alex from San Diego, Calif., wrote, "Great show about ethics and good Samaritans. I'm an undergrad psychology major, and I have some further ideas that were unanswered in the show. What if the couples were at a low income neighborhood park -- how would that scenario impact the results? I hypothesize that more males would come to the aid of the female being physically abused, but then again, that's a personal hypothesis.

"Another idea: This is in regards to the people attempting to drive under the influence of alcohol. I was surprised that people hesitated a bit to assist the actor who was not as nicely dressed as the first impersonator. Now, what if the actors were in the same part of town but with an older model car? Would people still be hesitant to assist because of the way a person is dressed and also driving an older car?"

Keating: Interesting possibilities, Alex. Why do you think more males would assist the female victim? Do social class differences make it more honorable or more advantageous for men to intervene when a woman is being abused? In some cultures (indeed, in some parts of our country) male abusers are less harshly judged -- these are so-called "honor" cultures.

You may be right about the older model car. It seems that people responded more quickly to the drunk who looked and seemed like them.

Angelica from Hudson, N.H., wrote, "I have a supervisor who seems to be coming in to work after having something to drink. Almost everyone I work with has noticed it. Sometimes it will just be her breath stinking and other times her speech is slurred and her walk is stumbly. There have been times when she is so bad, I don't know what to do. I have felt like asking her about it but don't want to get in trouble for it. I know that our superiors also know what is going on but don't say anything. I am really scared that something can happen to her or someone. What can I do?"

Keating: You need to think about what your goal is: Are you trying to help this supervisor? Save her job? Save your job?

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