It’s a strange, but true fact: when there’s an emergency situation and there are a lot of bystanders there to witness it, the less likely it is that anyone from the crowd will step into help. Sometimes it is because of an assumption that somebody else is going to do it. Sometimes it is simply because people don’t looked concerned and this will then justify a decision of inaction.
When there are four or more people who are bystanders to an emergency situation, the likelihood that at least one of them will help is just 31%.
Bystander Effect Facts
Compare that to the 85% of people that would rush to help someone if they knew or at least thought they were the only one’s there. It’s a 5 step process that every bystander goes through to justify why inaction is fine. The end result will always come to this: they will choose to act or they will choose to worry about the consequences of acting and so choose not to do so.
- The bystander effect is attenuated when there are situations present that create more danger to a perceived situation, such as having a perpetrator present.
- The statistics of the bystander effect are similar to the cost-reward statistics where someone will only choose to act if the potential reward is greater than the known risk.
- The costs of an intervention being physical in nature is one of the greatest attenuations of the bystander effect.
When people feel like they have no choice but to act, then most people will act. On the other hand, if people feel like there are others around who could act and take on the risk, then they’ll feel justified in not taking action at all. In some circumstances this is a legitimate concern. After all, a guy with a bad knee isn’t going to be able to run into a burning building, climb four flights of stairs, and then drag someone to safety as well as someone who is completely healthy. On the other hand, when more people are around, there is also a lot of excuses being made to minimize responsibility so that no personal risks need to be taken.
What Changes The Bystander Effect?
- When a group of bystanders is primarily male, there is a detrimental effect to the bystander effect that rises with the percentage of men in the group. A 100% male group of bystanders has the greatest chance to act when 4 or more people are present.
- When bystanders were not a witness to the emergency, they were more prone to act as well – no matter how many bystanders happened to be present.
- When people personally know who is involved in an emergency, they are more likely to act. When family or friends are involved, people are also more likely to act when compared to people who are just acquaintances are involved.
- One of the fastest ways to get someone to help who is a bystander is to call them by name and tell them exactly what they need to do in order to help.
- When people don’t look to others for social cues in a situation that could be an emergency situation, the levels of pluralistic ignorance are reduced and there’s a greater chance that someone will choose to act.
- The bystander effect is equal across all ages and demographics, including children. A study of more than 30,000 battered children showed that a high percentage of people who were familiar with the child’s circumstances failed to help.
- The primary reason why the bystander effect continues to remain in effect is that instead of evaluating the emergency, bystanders are evaluating each other.
It’s the classic question: what would you do? If you saw an elderly lady fall off the curb and smack her face on the sidewalk as you were driving by, would you slam on your breaks to stop? You probably would if there was no one around to help, right? But what if you saw a couple people come running out toward the person? There’s a chance you’d keep driving. You’d also be more likely to keep driving if there was traffic behind you. This effect is dangerous because it means people assume others are going to help. The only problem is that everyone else is also assuming the exact same thing!
What Can Stop The Bystander Effect?
- Many communities have enacted Good Samaritan laws that require people to help when they see an emergency situation or a legal penalty, including jail time in some jurisdictions, may result.
- Training programs that give people certain skills to better recognize an emergency situation can help spur action when they see it happen for real outside of the classroom.
- Rewards and other protections have been instituted in different industries and environments to protect whistleblowers and heighten the need for ongoing activism.
- It is important to increase intervention statistics in regards to the bystander effect because there is a bystander present in up to 65% of global violent victimizations that occur.
- People who do choose to act, even when there are bystanders present, do so because they tend to have greater feelings of social responsibility.
- Those who have a greater commitment to their overall personal moral values are more likely to intervene.
Part of the reason why we look to others when a possible emergency situation is going on is because we want to confirm that we’re actually seeing an emergency. Sometimes this is pretty obvious because someone getting hit by a car in a crosswalk is definitely an emergency. The kid who is splashing in the deep end of the pool, however, is a different story. Maybe they’re just having fun. It could be a way to get attention. So we look around and if others are concerned, we will choose to act. If not, then we will choose to smile at the sight and continue about our day, whether the kid is in trouble or not. If we can actively be more conscious about others and have a genuine concern for them, then we can reduce the bystander effect statistics for good.