The Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect

It happens when the presence of others discourages a person from intervening in an emergency situation. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is for any one of them to provide help to a person that is in trouble or distress.

People are more likely to take action in a crisis when there are few or no other witnesses present.

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The Bystander effect is attributed to:

  • The diffusion of responsibility: bystanders are less likely to intervene if there are other witnesses who seem likely to do so.
  • Social influence: individuals observe the behavior of those around them to determine how to act.

The Bystander effect can be reduced with awareness and in some cases explicit training.

An active bystander is most effective when they assume that they are the only person taking charge; giving direction to other bystanders to assist can, therefore, be critically important.

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Similar experiments conducted by B.F. Skinner, in which animals were kept in puzzle boxes with levers, led to a modified theory called Operant Conditioning.

The concept of reinforcement was introduced in the original law of effect theory, with reinforcements inserted in the positive and negative actions of animals, instead of waiting for them to try them out for themselves.

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