Bystander

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Frank Farley , a professor of psychology at Temple University and former head of the American Psychological Association, believes that humans are unique in their ability to manage and assess risk and adapt quickly to situations requiring that sort of critical thinking.

She points to a research study in which rats were presented with an opportunity to help a fellow rodent, which found that once an unfamiliar rat was released into the scenario, stress hormones spiked in the group of familiar rats. Many who report freezing up during a trauma also report entering a sort of dissociative state and not being able to recall the events.

Researchers say that could be the body attempting to reduce emotional stress both during the event and in its aftermath, an emotionally protective reaction that can dull the impacts of afflictions like PTSD.


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Freezing is what happens when neither fight nor flight is a viable option, but overcoming paralysis during events where those options are available is about being equally cognizant of what your brain is doing as well as cultivating a pattern of action. The more they are practiced and replicated, the more they become part of someone's identity.

Bystander effect

Then once it becomes part of your identity, it becomes a habitual response to stress instead of shutting down, instead of backing away. It can even be something developed through the course of a career. When terrorists swept into the Taj Hotel in Mumbai in , it was the hotel staff that stepped up and became heroes. The Taj is legendarily committed to service, and many have credited that philosophy with saving countless lives during the assault. Farley, the Temple professor, breaks heroism into two categories with equal merit.

The ombuds practitioners' study suggests that what bystanders will do in real situations is actually very complex, reflecting views of the context and their managers and relevant organizational structures if any and also many personal reasons. In support of the idea that some bystanders do indeed act responsibly, Gerald Koocher and Patricia Keith Spiegel wrote a article related to an NIH-funded study which showed that informal intervention by peers and bystanders can interrupt or remedy unacceptable scientific behavior.

Actors are used to act out typically non-emergency situations while the cameras capture the reactions and actions of innocent bystanders. Topics include cheating on a millionaire test, an elderly person shoplifting , racism and homophobia. Research suggests that the bystander effect may be present in computer-mediated communication situations. In the experiment, online chat groups were observed. One of two confederates were used as victims in each chat room: either a male victim whose screen name was Jake Harmen or a female victim whose screen name was Suzy Harmen.

The purpose of the experiment was to determine whether or not the gender of the victim mattered, if the size of each chat group had any effect and if asking for a person's help by directly using their screen name would have any effect. Results indicated that the gender of the victim had no effect on whether or not a bystander assisted the victim. The response time for smaller chat groups was quicker than in the larger chat groups. However, this effect was nonexistent when the victim Suzy or Jake asked for help from a specific person in the chat group.

The mean response time for groups in which a specific person was called out was The mean response time for groups in which no screen name was pointed out was A significant finding of the research is that intervention depends on whether or not a victim asked for help by specifying a screen name. The group size effect was inhibited when the victim specifically asked a specific person for help. The group size effect was not inhibited if the victim did not ask a specific person for help. Although most research has been conducted on adults, children can be bystanders too.

A study conducted by Robert Thornberg in came up with seven reasons why children do not help when another classmate is in distress. These include: trivialisation , dissociation , embarrassment association, busy working priority, compliance with a competitive norm, audience modelling, and responsibility transfer.

Bystander Intervention Training

In a further study, Thornberg concluded that there are seven stages of moral deliberation as a bystander in bystander situations among the Swedish schoolchildren he observed and interviewed: a noticing that something is wrong , i. It is striking how this was less an individual decision than the product of a set of interpersonal and institutional processes. In an effort to make South African courts more just in their convictions, the concept of extenuating circumstances came into being. The South African courts began using the testimony of expert social psychologists to define what extenuating circumstances would mean in the justice system.

Examples include: deindividuation , bystander apathy, and conformity.

We Are All Bystanders

In the case of S. Psychologists Scott Fraser and Andrew Colman presented evidence for the defense using research from social psychology. He testified that African cultures are characterized by a collective consciousness. Fraser and Colman stated that bystander apathy, deindividuation , conformity and group polarization were extenuating factors in the killing of the four strike breakers. They explained that deindividuation may affect group members' ability to realize that they are still accountable for their individual actions even when with a group. The testimonies of Fraser and Colman helped four of the defendants escape the death penalty.

Some parts of the world have included laws that hold bystanders responsible when they witness an emergency. In the US, Good Samaritan laws have been implemented to protect bystanders who acted in good faith. Many organizations are including bystander training. For example, the United States Department of the Army is doing bystander training with respect to sexual assault. Some organizations routinely do bystander training with respect to safety issues. Others have been doing bystander training with respect to diversity issues.

Many institutions have worked to provide options for bystanders who see behavior they find unacceptable. These options are usually provided through complaint systems —so bystanders have choices about where to go. One option that is particularly helpful is that of an organizational ombudsman , who keeps no records for the employer and is near-absolutely confidential. The murder of Kitty Genovese is the case that originally stimulated social psychological research into the "bystander effect".

On March 13, Genovese was stabbed, sexually assaulted, and murdered while walking home from work at 3 am in Queens, New York. An article published in American Psychologist in found that the story of Genovese's murder had been exaggerated by the media. There were far fewer than 38 eyewitnesses, the police were called at least once during the attack, and many of the bystanders who overheard the attack could not actually see the event.

The story continues to be misrepresented in social psychology textbooks because it functions as a parable and serves as a dramatic example for students. In , Larry Froistad posted a confession that he murdered his five-year-old daughter on an official email list for Moderation Management.

The Bystander Effect - The Science of Empathy

Three of the approximately members of the email list reported the confession to legal authorities. Some reported him to authorities, some said it was a long time ago, and some said he was fantasizing this as a result of feeling guilt over his divorce. From this example, it can be seen that through online communication, a physical and psychological barrier is created which causes people to forget their responsibilities. On October 24, , a female student of Richmond High School was gang-raped and beaten by a group of boys and men after a classmate invited her to a dark courtyard outside the school's homecoming dance.

Overcoming the Bystander Effect | The Psychology of Heroism | BBC StoryWorks

The case drew nationwide outrage. On Memorial Day , , year-old Raymond Zack, of Alameda, California , walked into the waters off Robert Crown Memorial Beach and stood neck deep in water roughly yards offshore for almost an hour. His foster mother, Dolores Berry, called and said that he was trying to drown himself. There are conflicting reports about Zack's intentions. The firefighters called for a United States Coast Guard boat to respond to the scene. According to police reports, Alameda police expected the firefighters to enter the water.

Dozens of civilians on the beach, and watching from their homes across from the beach, did not enter the water, apparently expecting public safety officers to conduct a rescue. Eventually, Zack collapsed in the water, apparently from hypothermia. Even then, nobody entered the water for several minutes. Finally, a good samaritan entered the water and pulled Zack to shore. Zack died afterwards at a local hospital. On September 16, , year-old Khaseen Morris was stabbed in the chest during an after-school fight with a fellow student in the parking lot of a shopping center near Oceanside High School in Nassau County, New York.

Watching the fight was a group of 50 to 70 other students. News reports indicate that none of the people witnessing the fight came to Khaseen's aid. Instead, many in the group continued take videos for social media as he lay bleeding. Khassen later died of his wounds in hospital. Detective Lt. They would rather video this event.


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They videoed his death instead of helping him. In many cases, it is believed that individuals like to view themselves as noble by offering help. This concept is related to the notion of self-awareness. If it is true that people focus on the impression they make on others, then public-awareness through the use of accountability cues can stimulate people to give help to each other. However, being surrounded by a lot of bystanders does not automatically create public self-awareness.