The lies we tell ourselves - the bystander effect

in psychology •  last year

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You're walking down a bustling street next to a park. The sun is shining so a lot of people are out making the most of the weather.

You notice a man and woman arguing in a doorway. He's forcing himself on her, and she's crying. Others have noticed what's happening, but everyone walks by. Some are laughing and taking photos. You assume it's just a lover's quarrel and keep on walking too.

Congratulations! You've fallen victim to the bystander effect!

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Wang Yue

On the 13th of October in 2011, Wang Yue, a two-year old Chinese girl was crossing a narrow road in Foshan, Guangdong when she was hit by two vehicles.

She lay bleeding on the road for more than seven minutes. CCTV footage shows that during this time, 18 passers-by noticed her and walked around her.

Finally she was helped by a female rubbish scavenger, but sadly died of her injuries eight days later.

What can we do about it?

We have a moral responsibility to come to the aid of those around us. Being aware that more eye-witnesses may result in less action being taken, we can consciously promote ourselves to good Samaritan.

One possible reason why large groups result in less help is the ability for people to blend into the crowd and become anonymous. To combat this, you can try to bring accountability to others. Ask them why they aren't helping. In this case, be careful not to accept the response as justification for not helping yourself.


Banner photo by Greg Neate used under the CC-BY-2.0 license. Changes were made to the original.


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Congratulations for your article!

I've been in multiple situations where I had to choose between helping a person in need even if a lot of people were around me, or just ignore him or her, and mind my own business.

I helped some of them, even tho a lot of people were looking at me like I was a weird. I felt awesome for doing that, and mostly, I felt proud of myself.

I also ignored others because of the bystander effect you talk about. Everyone was around the people in need of assistance, and I just couldn't make myself go there and do something. I never felt more ashamed and more regret that in those situations.

All we need to do is take action when something like this happens, and forget about the crowd around us. The feeling you have when you ignore everything else and you help another person for no reason, it's something that we should all experience more.

Congratulations again for your article, I hope more people read it and more people become aware of this! :)

a large percentage of the normal human nature will simply want to be a passer by, trying not to attract any ugly situation to his or herself...but learning to overcome that natural self is really important as we learn to be of significant assistance to our neighbors.

I go off to the side and call 911, that is how I help. I do not get directly involved because it can be dangerous. One my hubby and I were walking, a female was being forced by her bf to go with him. She asked for my phone and of course i let her use it. I tried to take her away and my bf dealt with the guy in a calm manner now the guy managed to pull her to the side and asked if she really wanted to get us involved, and I sensed he had gun on him. Luckily I had her number so I called her family after we got to a safe distance and flagged down two cops where made it clear they were on lunch >.>

Point is, try not to get involved, step to the side and call 911. Its safer. At the very least.