Diffusion of responsibility - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Diffusion of responsibility is a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present. Considered a form of attribution, the individual assumes that others either are responsible for taking action or have already done so. The phenomenon tends to occur in groups of people above a certain critical size and when responsibility is not explicitly assigned. It rarely occurs when the person is alone and diffusion increases with groups of three or more.
- In a group of people who, through action or inaction, allow events to occur which they would never allow if they were alone. This is referred to as groupthink and groupshift.
- In a group of people working on a task who lose motivation, feel less responsibility for achievement of group goals, and hide their lack of effort in the group (social loafing).
- In hierarchical organizations, when subordinates claim to simply be following orders and supervisors claim that they merely issue directives and do not perform the actions under question. The difficulty of identifying the culpable party is often seen in trials regarding crimes against humanity.