A CPR example at Wendy’s: Applying the Latané & Darley model of helping

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Alexandria Cowheard, a 22-year-old Wendy’s employee and Bluegrass Community and Technical College certified nursing assistant student (Newspath/WKYT, 2023), was working the afternoon of October 16, 2023. Shortly before 2:30pm, Cowheard’s coworker saw that a man was on the ground in the parking lot and alerted Cowheard. She called 911 then went to the parking lot (Crenshaw, 2023).

She saw the man turning purple. A woman who was with him was doing chest compressions. Cowheard, who learned CPR in her senior year of high school (Crenshaw, 2023), said, “She wasn’t doing her compressions for long enough. She'd do it a few times and then she'd try to do mouth-to-mouth” (Martin, 2023). It wasn’t working. Cowheard said, “I didn’t panic visibly, but in the back of my mind, I was like, what do I do… I kind of short-circuited a little bit before I was like, ‘Girl, you know how to do CPR; get over here and do these chest compressions’”(Crenshaw, 2023). After a few minutes of CPR, the man gasped for air. An ambulance crew arrived and transported him to the hospital (Newspath/WKYT, 2023).

In the Bibb Latané (1937-) and John Darley (1938-2018) model of helping, four things need to happen in order for us to help (Latane & Darley, 1968). First, we have to notice the event. Second, we have to interpret the event as an emergency. Third, we need to assume responsibility for helping. And fourth, we need to know how to help.

In the Wendy’s incident, Alexandria Cowheard noticed the event; her coworker told her that a man was down in the parking lot. Second, she interpreted the event as an emergency—initially because of her coworker’s report (Cowheard called 911 based on this alone) and then again when she saw that the man in the parking lot was turning purple. Third, she assumed responsibility for helping. Rather than standing by watching the man’s companion struggle to render aid while waiting for someone else to help, Cowheard decided she had a responsibility to help. Lastly, Cowheard knew how to help; she had learned CPR in high school.

If you choose to share this example with your students, ask how many of them were trained to do CPR. Since knowing CPR was a key component in Cowheard’s decision to help, do your students think that all high school or college students should be required to learn CPR? Are there other helping skills that we all should be required to learn, such as using an automated external defibrillator (AED)? For example, researchers are exploring the effectiveness of delivering AEDs via drone while the EMTs are on their way (Schierbeck et al., 2022). Would having a public trained in AED use make AED drone deliveries more effective?



Crenshaw, D. (2023, October 27). Employee at Lexington Wendy’s saves customer’s life using CPR. Https://Www.Wkyt.Com. https://www.wkyt.com/2023/10/27/employee-lexington-wendys-saves-customers-life-parking-lot/

Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10(3), 215–221. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0026570

Martin, S. (2023, November 3). Employee at Wendy’s in Kentucky saves customer’s life, credits CPR for life-saving action. USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/11/03/wendys-employee-saves-customer-life-cpr-kentuc...

Newspath/WKYT, C. B. S. (2023, November 25). Kentucky Wendy’s employee saves man’s life after medical emergency in parking lot. WKRC. https://local12.com/news/nation-world/kentucky-wendys-employee-saves-mans-life-medical-emergency-par...

Schierbeck, S., Svensson, L., & Claesson, A. (2022). Use of a drone-delivered automated external defibrillator in an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. New England Journal of Medicine, 386(20), 1953–1954. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMc2200833

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.