The Bystander Effect - Bullying Series, post #9
(This blog post is part of a special series addressing the topic of bullying)
There are many studies on what is termed the “Bystander Effect,” which suggest that the more people who witness an event, the less likely anyone is to intervene.
This might seem counter-intuitive because you would think that the more people who witness an event the greater the likelihood that at least one person would step in and help. But this is not always the case.
Here is a CBS News story that explains the bystander effect as it occurred during a hit-and-run accident: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4158880n.
In this news report, the expert answers the question: Why did the witnesses not intervene? She explains that a bystander typically has to meet three criteria before they are willing to get involved. They must:
- Notice it’s an emergency. If they do not see other witnesses getting out their cell phones, calling 911, or getting excited, then it is easy to rationalize that it must not really be an emergency – therefore not requiring them to act or intervene.
- Decide to take some responsibility and do something. This is unlikely to happen because of what they call “diffusion of responsibility” – the feeling that someone else will likely do something or has already done something. “Surely someone else has already called 911, right?”
- Believe they have the skills necessary to help. People might justify inaction by saying, “Well, I’m not a ________(nurse, doctor, policeman, school administrator, etc.) so I really can’t help anyway.”
Some people have died because no one took the initiative to step in and help. In instances of bullying, research indicates that if someone intervenes in an incident, the bullying usually stops within five minutes. The simple act of getting involved can be all it takes for the bullying to stop. Most bullies don’t like to go it alone. They prefer to have an audience who gives their tacit support and approval.
If there is a safe way for you to stop bullying from happening – be a hero and get involved.
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