Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Bystander Effect.

There's been a lot of moralizing lately about the bystander effect. That the thing that causes large groups of people to… well, become bystanders.

I won't join my fellow bloggers in lament, thanks. Done to the death (pun not intended). Why not look at the problem instead?

“The bystander effect (also known as bystander apathy) is a psychological phenomenon where persons are less likely to intervene in an emergency situation when others are present than when they are alone.

Solitary individuals will typically intervene if another person is in need of help: this is known as bystander intervention. However, researchers were surprised to find that help is less likely to be given if more people are present. In some situations, a large group of bystanders may fail to help a person who obviously needs help.”

Fucked up, kan? Turns out it's something that happens a lot, nowadays, especially once we move into the disconnected po–industrial society we live in. We've had it since the murder of Kitty Genovese, and we'll continue having it. It's been studied extensively, and all that, and now we may know why….

“…with others present, observers all assume that someone else is going to intervene and so they each individually refrain from doing so…

People may also assume that other bystanders may be more qualified to help, such as being a doctor or police officer, and their intervention would thus be unneeded. People may also fear ‘losing face’ in front of the other bystanders, being superseded by a ‘superior’ helper, or offering unwanted assistance.

Another explanation is that bystanders monitor the reactions of other people in an emergency situation to see if others think that it is necessary to intervene. Since others are doing exactly the same, everyone concludes from the inaction of others that other people do not think that help is needed…”

The good news is, however, that it might be possible to counter this effect, by

“…picking a specific person in the crowd to appeal to for help rather than appealing to the larger group generally. [Doing so] places all responsibility on that specific person, instead of allowing it to diffuse… [it may also show] that all bystanders are indeed interested in helping; and it kicks in social proof when one or more of the crowd steps in to assist.”

Here's hoping you may never need to do this, but if you do find yourself in trouble and surrounded by a crowd of rubber–necking idiots, the best thing you can do is pick out someone, and appeal to them, not the crowd in general.

Hey, I suppose it's risky, but in some cases there ain't much else you can do….

Maybe what we need are victim classes, in which ways to break that apathy barrier are thought. Hmm.

Blogger HANI said...

po-industrial society, huh?

4:18 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

The prefix ‘po’ is used in the Orion's Arm setting as a contraction of the term ‘post’.

Examples include post-human becoming po-hu, post-Artificial Intelligence (AI) being called po-aioid (AI to ai, and then adding –oid to the end), post-robot being called po-vec (from Hans Moravec, a famous robotic researcher and machine transhumanist).

I liked it, so I appropriated it for this post. Hence po-industrial here means, post-industrial.

I'm a blogger. We're allowed our poorly thought–out neologisms.

8:29 AM  
Blogger HANI said...

I'm your girlfriend. I'm allowed to whack you.


4:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home