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An Alternative View on the Bystander Effect

An Alternative View on the Bystander Effect

By Dennis Loo (6/8/14)

The so-called "bystander effect" is typically offered as an illustration of humanity's shortcomings: a crowd of people fail to act to prevent or mitigate a tragedy such as someone being viciously assaulted. Frequently among laypeople the bystander effect is brought up to condemn humans as sheeplike, cowardly and/or callous.

The most famous case cited to illustrate this is the 1964 Kitty Genovese incident in Queens, New York where Genovese was murdered in front of hundreds of her neighbors in a housing project. There is also a recent incident in China involving a two-year old child run over by two cars before someone went to her assistance.

I am going to offer here an alternative view of the bystander effect from the customary one. 

The bystander effect is actually a really good example of the power of social dynamics. Since we are social creatures, we function as members of a larger group. One of the ways that that operates is for us to diffuse responsibility to others in the group. It’s in the nature of groups that we assume that others are taking care of things since groups operate that very way: the sole responsibility does not lie in any one person’s lap. When situations that can provoke the bystander effect occur, you are operating in an ill-defined situation because the crowd that is witnessing the problematic event is not organized in any way. They are simply a crowd and there are no clear lines of authority present. That authority has to be created on the fly by someone who recognizes that it’s a diffused responsibility and unorganized situation. They therefore have to take it upon themselves to constitute a leading role in the unorganized situation.

Once they do that others will swing into motion in response to someone helping to transform the situation into an organized one. 

Social psychological experiments designed to test for the bystander effect show that the likelihood that people will respond by helping someone in need goes down in inverse proportion to the number of bystanders. The most likely situation for people to assist others is when they are alone. The more witnesses, the more diffuse the responsibilty becomes and the less likely any one individual will respond to the person in need because they think that someone else will do it. 

The fact that people think that someone else will do the right thing and they themselves don't have to do it is therefore not simply a matter of human indifference because if indifference was the main factor at work, it would not make a difference in the response rate whether there was one witness to a situation requiring assistance or many witnesses. The response rate would be the same if it's human indifference in play. The fact that the response rate varies tremendously depending on the number of witnesses points to the sallence of social dynamics. 

The fact that humans are social beings therefore has both positive and negative ramifications. Since we are such thoroughly social beings as a rule, it is to be expected that we would act as such in all social situations. It should not be surprising that in unorganized and ill-defined situations that a diffusion of responsibility should occur. What the bystander effect underscores, then, is the impact that individuals who break from the spell of "pluralistic ignorance" - people tend to look at what others are doing and wrongly assume that everyone else has consciously decided that inaction is the proper response and they thus tend to conform to what they see others are doing - can have on the group.

Individuals and groups, in other words, operate in dialectical relationship to each other. The very strength of groups in their diffusion or division of responsibility that gives groups the ability to do so much more than any unorganized individuals can do can also operate negatively in novel, unorganized, and ill-defined situations. The solution to that problem is for people who are more willing to break from the invisible ties that bind and step forward in order to mobilize the group and free the group to act.

Another way to put that is that groups rely upon individual leaders as a means of organizing the group. Groups cannot act minus their being organized. Groups, in other words, need leaders. And sometimes that means individuals stepping forward to provide that leadership when there is either an absence of leadership or when the existing leadership in well-defined situations is wrong and leading others down the wrong path. 

For better and for worse we are and will always be social beings. Those who make a pastime of blaming humanity for being human are not bettering the situation because they don't actually understand the upside and downsides of being social creatures. If you understand social dynamics then you can act consciously to overcome the shortcomings that humanity's social nature manifests in order to mobilize its very substantial resources and dynamic nature for good ends rather than bad ends. The problem with humanity, in other words, is not that we are social creatures. The problem with humanity turns or falls on what kind of leadership is being exerted and what kind of systems we have that govern us as individuals and groups. 

 

Comments   

 
+1 # Danielle waldman 2014-06-08 23:25
When I read this, the first thing that came to my kind was the experiment that was done where someone was told to initiate shocks to people when they answered a question wrong. There was a person in the room that was wearing a white coat an they would look to them as a leader, a person of authority, before each time they initiated the shocks. They knew it was wrong and wanted to stop it but because there was the presence of the leader, they did not stop. People look to authority and leadership when they must act on in some way that is not the norm.
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0 # Shannon Barkley 2014-06-09 03:26
I agree, that experiment came to mind too. With the individuals just listening to the leaders, no matter how horrible the deed was, they were losing their voices and essentially becoming bystanders to the experiment. By becoming bystanders they were just doing what they were being told, even though they could have been hurting the patients. THis also shows how society almost needs a leader for them to know what to do. People sometimes want the 'guidance', even if it is negative.
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0 # Heng Chang 2014-06-09 04:58
I believe that was called the Milgram experiment and often times people are forced to do things that they do not want to do but still do it because they are afraid of the consequences afterwards that we won't break the rules or go out of the way to do something that might make a difference or do something that is right
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0 # Agris 2014-06-08 23:28
Are you saying that people are more compelled to become in involved in an organized situation than a situation of chaos? I definitely agree to that. There is always some type of organization being created wither it is just hanging out with friends of buying a cup of coffee at the local shop or community events. People need someone to be in charge of the situation and there needs to be some type of order, rules, an end. For instance, I have noticed with my friends it is hard to get a response to going out or enjoying each others company if there is no distinct scenario being described. Something as simple as "lets see a movie" draws questions and hesitation to engage in the activity. "What movie? What time are we going to? Are we going to go anywhere else? Dinner? Coffee? Drinks?" It is not until there is a plan put into action is it easier to get the majority to commit to the engagement. Their are those few that jump up and go but generally there need be a plan.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-08 23:34
Exactly. A plan makes a big difference in whether or not people will take it up.
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0 # Belinda Kil 2014-06-11 20:50
I definitely agree with the notion written about above. I even find myself guilty of succumbing to the thinking that someone else will take care of a situation, rather than stepping up myself.
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0 # Jason Kubanis 2014-06-09 00:03
In the case of Genovese, about 8 years ago driving down a crowed road a man was abusing his wife, one woman came to her defense, but everyone else stood their and watched, my mother and I pulled off and helped this woman while I tried to calm the man down before the police had arrived. If it were not for that one brave woman and my mother and I, that woman would have been severely hurt or beaten by this enraged man. This goes for not only beatings, fights and abuse victims, people tend to crowd around accidents, many people are afraid to act and do not want to be judged by others.
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0 # Jason Kubanis 2014-06-09 00:10
As stated in the other blog “I’ll do the Right Thing If You Others Do It First”, this goes hand and hand with the how the bystander effect takes place, others are waiting for others to act correctly and as stated if no one is willing to lead than the problem will not be resolved. The bystander effect was a major issue in my high school as students tended to stand around and watch fights, not matter how bad the beating got, no one was willing to step in and help. Everyone always waits for the first person to act and then it becomes a domino effect, I have found myself in situations where I was hesitant and was not willing to put myself into a position like that.
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0 # Danielle Waldman 2014-06-11 20:02
Most people are not willing to jump in and help right away because they know that eventually someone will or that they already have in some way, like calling for help. We need more people to take the initiative and lead and not wait to see if someone will lead. As social beings we are immune to being followers and not leaders, we must change this outlook.
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0 # AJ 2014-06-09 00:38
The bystander effect might be used in situations such as the Kitty Genovese incident, however it seems as there is a greater form of the bystander effect that is affecting the people of the united states. One example is that of Obama's presidency. There are many promises made by the president to the people; however although many were broken, majority of the people rather not take action in fighting for their rights because they believe there are others that will do so. The more people are affected the less likely they fight back since thanks to the bystander effect people assumes less responsibility to fight. We might have a few individuals taking leadership to fight for our the rights we have been promised but if we don't manage to reduces that affect that the bystander effect causes people, those willing to take leadership will not have a well decent social group to lead.
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0 # Michelle Ngo 2014-06-09 00:58
Society cannot survive without a leader. As social beings, we are told what we can and cannot do. In the bystander effect, there is no leader. Everyone believes that someone else would do the task that should be acted upon. For example, calling for help, helping someone in trouble, or even breaking up a fight. Instead, the crowd is there to stand and wait for someone to do something. It is a tragedy when there is no one helping someone in need. People are compelled to help, but they do not do so because they believe that someone is going to do it.
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0 # SOC 123 2014-06-11 00:41
What I enjoy reading these comments is that you get to know different perspectives. I didn't correlate the two. It does make sense that as social beings we have leader and when we don't we get lost until we find one.
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0 # tiffany 2014-06-09 01:17
That is exactly why when we hear of stories on the news of someone who helped save another's life we refer to them as "heroes." We do this because in a situation with so many people around watching one person is able to stand up and do the right thing. Our society needs leaders and it needs bystanders, thats the way it works. We have followers and we have leaders, it is the individuals decision to decide which they want to be.
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0 # Manuel Arias 2014-06-11 00:04
you mention that society has leaders and followers, and i agree with you. so what would be the case if we were all leaders? would society function differently? would everyone now be the same, the bystanders? and would there be a new type of person to top the list of the "leader"? i would believe there would be another greater person on top of the leader if that was the case. there is always those people thinking outside of the box.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 00:59
Quoting Manuel Arias:
so what would be the case if we were all leaders?
In any group of people there is ALWAYS going to be three segments: the advanced, the intermediate, and the (relatively) backward. This is true in any arena, whether it's sports, academics, arts, etc. The more advanced are those who are the most farseeing and most understanding of the activity. The intermediate are always going to be the largest group and the backward are the most narrow and have the most tenuous grasp of things. This is true even within an elite group of peo that they can be divided into three groups. So, no, we cannot all be leaders. BUT, society can strive for peo raising their overall understanding and capacity. You could compare this to the difference btw those in the NBA and those who aren't. The very weakest NBA players are still head and shoulders over non-NBA players.
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0 # Christine Lopez 2014-06-09 01:25
I have seen many stalled car and cars that have been in accidents on the freeway. My first reaction is to see if the person is okay and if they need help or to notify the CHP. When doing so I let the dispatcher know where the accident occurred and the dispatcher informs me sometimes that some one has reported the accident. Some people might let some one know or the bystander effect might take place if they believe someone else has reported the incident. or I'm guessing that they might not report the incident because they might be to busy a did not notice what happened.
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0 # marcos1 2014-06-11 23:36
You're so right. Every time I see an accident on the freeway I never call the cops. It's not that I don't care, because if there was anything I could do to help I would. The thing is that I assume that someone else will call the cops or already has… But now that I think about it, what if no one else has called? It's better for me to pull over and report it than to leave it to chance. Thanks for your comment.
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0 # Sinnerman 2014-06-09 02:20
I would say the that the bystander effect when it comes to social change still has some amount of indifference to it. If people aren't acting because they have assume someone else is working on it, that still requires some amount of indifference. If it was something you genuinely cared about it wouldn't be enough to have others working on it, you would want to be involved as well. The prospect that the bystander effect might be in part hampering social change is an interesting idea I had never considered, but I really hope it isn't true. It would only darken my outlook on people. It is one thing to not act because of ignorance, but it is quite another to actively choose not to because someone else is probably already working on it. That is just lazy and kind of selfish.
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0 # Jessica Rodriguez 2014-06-09 02:42
i think people are not use to helping each other out like we should. i has happen to me were i want to help and at the same time i kind of wait. if someone got hit by a car then i will help its only human nature, at least the way i see it. people do need a leader in order for us to do something. even if its wrong or right, they need to be told what to do.sadly
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0 # Luvlife1 2014-06-09 02:59
I absolutely agree that almost always there is a need for order and leadership. People as human beings want to belong and if the vast majority are doing the wrong thing, then the wrong thing will be done. This is why government is in charge and people think that what they are doing is for our own interest because the ones in charge (government) makes us believe that!
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0 # Danielle Waldman 2014-06-10 05:40
i completely agree with this statement. People not only want to belong, but they also do not want to stick out like a sore thumb. Leadership is what keeps those people from acting out. They also make us think that everything that they do is in fact the right thing, they do this by lying to us. People will believe them solely because they are the authority and in leadership positions.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-10 19:03
There are two kinds of leaders - those that are lying and must lie to continue in their roles and those that are committed to the group and planet's interests. The latter kind of leader's action will help to unleash the collective power of people rather than squelching it or directing to negative ends.
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0 # Manuel Arias 2014-06-11 00:10
the bad thing about the 2 types of leaders is that we are manipulated by the lying one (bad leaders) and we don't really tend to care much for the good ones, the ones the actually want the best for us and for the planet. another thing is that the "bad leaders" will do anything to destroy the "good leaders" since they get on the way of their plans. now we have a war on leaders (good and bad) and we have the power to choose one, hopefully the good ones.
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0 # menava 2014-06-11 07:46
And sadly enough the type of leaders who lie also seem to have a great team behind that are willing to do almost anything to keep the lie going because there'some type of corrupted self-interest motivating their continued deception. The good leaders need to not only be "good" (committed to group interests) but also have a team working behind the scenes that are also committed to the greater cause.
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0 # Danielle Waldman 2014-06-11 19:55
Yes there are those leaders that do care and are "committed to the group and planet's interests." But don't the other leaders, the ones that lie, keep the other leaders from really helping to fix the structure of our society? How can we really know how to believe?
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0 # Shannon Barkley 2014-06-09 03:10
"The most likely situation for people to assist others is when they are alone. The more witnesses, the more diffuse the responsibilty becomes and the less likely any one individual will respond to the person in need because they think that someone else will do it." I agree with this quote whole heartedly and this is the basis of the bystander effect. If a person was alone, they would feel more compelled to help in a situation than if there was a group of people. If there was a group, almost very individual would feel not as compelled to help because they believe others would help, but if that is the mentality of every individual in the group that is why nothing can get done.
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0 # Catman 2014-06-09 03:11
I think that the opportunity to take the leadership role in a traumatic incident is taken by either people in that field or that already have a leadership position in their normal career. I know my aunt, a registered nurse, witnessed a little boy getting hit by a car and without thinking was first out of her car to help the kid. I think her career gave her instincts to help people whether people are in a group or not. Next, if you are in a leadership position, your personality brings out the want to be in charge of a situation. The only down fall is that if you are the CEO of Microsoft or someone with a leadership role is in a group witnessing a car crash, they would be less liking to help thinking about the outcome if they help and the person in the car dies. A lawsuit can follow.
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0 # thatdude 2014-06-10 02:36
I agree with you Catman. I believe that some people are better qualified/equip ped than others to help in certain situations such as your aunts reaction to witnessing a kid get hit by a car. But in some cases, like witnessing someone in the process of stealing a bike, I feel that more people wouldn't try to stop the thief than would attempt to help the kid being hit by a car. In both cases the bystander effect is present, but generally more people would be willing to help someone who is hurt than attempt to stop someone trying to steal a bike. I bring this up because this article reminds me of a video I watched in a previous sociology class of people turning a blind eye and not wanting to speak out against someone stealing a bike in a public park. It was astonishing to see so many people walked by and didn't say a thing. Everyone is guilty of being a bystander at one point or another.
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0 # jnc 2014-06-10 19:53
I agree with what you have said, but I also think that you don't not need to be in a particular field to help someone. I think that since your aunt was a nurse she felt more inclined to help the child who was injured. However I believe that it is up to the person to help out another individual. Regardless of ones background, if a person is in need of help, more then likely people will come to their help. As selfish as society has become, there are still people who are willing to help when the time comes. When danger is placed in a situation the fight or flight aspect is put into place. It is up to the individual to make he choice on what direction they will go.
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0 # mitchell denerson 2014-06-09 03:16
I liked this article a lot because i see videos all the time with this kind of thing happening, where someone is in need of help and nobody does anything. I've always wondered why nobody tends to go help. I agree with your reasons above about people thinking others will do it. But when there is a weapon involved i feel like most don't want to go help because they are in fear of being hurt and becoming a victim themselves, which i think is the case in a lot of situations and not because they feel somebody else will go help.
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0 # Manuel Arias 2014-06-10 23:57
i seen those videos about "What would you do" show, and not only do we not go and help out because we think someone else will go help first, but don't forget the when it comes to minorities the help rarely or never gets there. and now we have a racial issue to deal with as well. so what i see is that when and if we help they have to be from our own race? sticking and helping our own race/community? so now we face 2 problems, we are social beings but we are selective as well.
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0 # Catman 2014-06-09 03:19
The role of leadership when it comes to someones live is a hard role to take because all of the pressure and responsibility. One of the best examples of the bystander effect is in the last episode of "Seinfeld". The characters get arrest for not helping a man who's car was being stolen and instead they filmed it and made fun of the fat helpless man. The action of them not helping was not because they were bad people but because they didn't want to walk into the leadership role and given all the responsibility for this helpless man. The man robbing the guy for the car had a gun so sometimes, the bystander effect is selfish in a good way because you are protecting your own life.
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0 # Susan Torres 2014-06-09 04:13
The type of system that is in place would also be like a new set of values that people look to, right? Unlike capitalism that imposes individualism and profit to individuals.. The new system would have to be entirely different. The bystander effect will continue to happen no matter what type of system is in place it seems, since it's in our nature to be this way. There has and I beleive there will always be that one individual that will come forward and be willing to lead a group... In the right way we hope.
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0 # menava 2014-06-11 07:55
I think the bystander effect will continue to happen no matter what type of system is in place because as much as any culture values individualistic action, as a whole it functions as a group. I think do have leaders full of potential willing to come forward, but under the current system it's getting harder to determine if being a leader is worth it. I was at a restaurant and some guy fainted, myself and two other ladies came to assist him (I was recently renewed with my CPR certification, so I felt fairly confident in my abilities to lead). One of the ladies was a registered nurse (far more qualified than myself) and was not going to do CPR because she was worried about possible litigation should she be unsuccessful in her attempts, and rather stood by and waited for an ambulance to arrive. Sometimes potential leaders have the skills, but they don't respond because they know someone else will do it and deal with the success/failure of seeing it through.
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0 # menava 2014-06-11 07:59
We need to breakdown the walls that are keeping potentially great leaders at bay. We need to not fear the repercussions to the point where it immobilizes us. Like Dr. Loo said in class last week, President Obama should be willing to put it all on the line to ensure what he promised during his run for Presidency. Leaders need to step away from the ideals of those in power and more towards the ideals of the true majority. Leading is difficult because resistance is strong.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 13:47
Quoting menava:
President Obama should be willing to put it all on the line to ensure what he promised during his run for Presidency.
Right, if he really meant the things he keeps saying he abides by. He could do it and the fact that he doesn't do these things but is doing the exact opposite of it shows that he is deceitful. It doesn't show what some peo mistakenly continue to think that it shows, that he really really really in his heart of hearts wants to do the right thing but can't.
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0 # bobbybmartinez 2014-06-11 21:51
Exactly, instead he makes false promises and throws the blame on others, like congress. Which is complete bullshit, he is the commander and chief, he could close GTMO and end the war if he chose to, but he doesn't want to, he would rather make the public THINK he is trying all he could, when in reality he isn't doing anything good to benefit the well being of the general public?
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0 # BBalty 2014-06-09 04:16
I've always looked at the bystander effect as really negative product of our society but looking at it from Dr. Loo's point of view it has changed my opinion. Since humans are social creatures it makes sense that during a chaotic event we would be hesitant to respond in an individualistic manner but if everyone responds we would get the opposite effect. If everyone in a crowd would respond to a chaotic event then the social outcasts would be those who didn't respond. All the crowd needs is a little push for them to become organized and respond. So in essence the bystander effect can be reversed through the social dynamism that present in our society.
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0 # Aria 2014-06-09 07:24
I agree. I used to see the bystander effect as negative showing how we would not take initiative to start something. But, after reading this article, I have noticed that it is just a way that we cope with being social creatures. It makes sense because most people try to fit in, so when something happens we look to others to see what we should do to fit in. It really does take a leader to change the dynamics of the bystander effect because once one person is willing to put a plan into motion, then others will start to do something new as well.
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0 # flr9d 2014-06-09 04:48
I totally agree and do believe that an any given situation with leadership more people would take the initiative to act.This also made me think of how humans are social creatures and they don't like to act alone they like to feel part of a group. This would require thought for one individual to step up in order to have the rest take action.Also many individuals in a given urgent situation are unable to plan and therefore leave it to others to take leadership and action first.
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0 # bobbybmartinez 2014-06-11 21:53
Leadership is key for anything great that happens in life, and great leaders would form and start a revolution to help better all of society.
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0 # Heng Chang 2014-06-09 04:51
The bystander effect happens daily. When we see someone in need of help, we don't usually offer to help unless someone else offers first. That's why we need leaders. Leaders are usually those people who offer to help or offer to do something when other people don't. Once we have leaders telling us what to do, we are more willing to do it, opposed to us just offering to do it ourselves. Even within group of friends there are at least one main person that makes all the decisions. At home, it's usually one parent who makes the decisions. That's how humans function, we like knowing what we are doing and that we aren't alone.
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0 # Princess Peach 2014-06-09 05:05
I thought that this was an interesting take on the bystander effect. Normally when I would think about the bystander effect, I would focus on the negative consequences that it has. This alternative view demonstrates that the bystander effect is a great example of how group dynamics work. This reminded me of a discussion we have had multiple times in the past: Why is sociology considered a science? The bystander effect has been tested over and over again and the results are consistent. The principles of sociology explain the bystander effect. We are social beings and we feel a need to belong. Group dynamics and the way in which it operates can have positive effects, but it can also have negative effects, and the bystander effect is an example of a consequence of group dynamics.
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0 # soad 2014-06-09 05:38
I really liked the quote that stated "The more witnesses, the more diffuse the responsibilty becomes and the less likely any one individual will respond to the person in need because they think that someone else will do it." I absolutely agree with it. When there is a crowd, and something goes wrong, the whole group won't go and assist a person in need. I remember, I once fell flat on my back in a really crowded intersection and couldn't move for about two minutes, and not one person asked if I was okay or even helped me up. If that situation happened in a smaller group, then I would have been assisted. When groups are smaller, people are forced into different situations, however in big groups, people are looking for the leader to solve the problem.
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0 # karen cornejo 2014-06-09 05:56
The thing with the bystander effect is the same as with the problem that people wont speak up first. For some odd rrason people never want to be the odd man out, they never want to be the first person to raise their hand or to volunteer and that is where the whole thing fails. Things will never change until someone breaks through that and makes it the norm to not hide behind people.
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0 # Sme 2014-06-10 00:05
I strongly agree with you, if we expect people to come forward to start a change, the change will never happen. We have to take into consideration that when being in a crowd many people would have the same expectation as we do; therefore they will be expecting someone else to react just like we do.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-10 00:13
Quoting karen cornejo:
For some odd rrason people never want to be the odd man out, they never want to be the first person to raise their hand or to volunteer and that is where the whole thing fails.

It's not an odd reason. It's the point of this article and others that peo are social beings and therefore the mainstream (majority) of peo will wait until someone else acts. That's why it will take those who are braver and wiser to step forward first. And fortunately, not everyone is waiting for others to act.
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0 # MayDay 2014-06-09 06:11
Part (1/2)Upon reading this, I thought about how the bystander effect is not limited to just one incident but is current to our predicament within the society we live in. I understand now that we as individuals are able to and need to create a social dynamic that is not conceived through the greed of certain individuals but rather to better the lives of the people. I liked where this article states, “The solution to that problem is for people who are more willing to break from the invisible ties that bind and step forward in order to mobilize the group and free the group to act.” Too many people are living through a looking glass of what they feel is appropriate rather than what they know is morally correct and not enough people take action to change it because they are scared of the outcome being unfavorable.
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0 # MayDay 2014-06-09 06:14
Part (2/2) Humans are scared of failure and I say that with certainty because of our timely existence we are scared of being shunned from the majority of the favorable population because it limits the connections we have with other humans and thus being social creatures with the fear of this shunning we tend to shy away from what is not known and acted upon by the majority. Thus creating a bystander effect that affects our entire population and human race on a larger scale. Also because we grow up with the ideal that we need to follow the rules we take that into adulthood willingly and follow them that govern us. This slippery slope of events continues to spiral down until we are wielded into nothing but a tool used to define a whole population and used for other individuals monetary benefits. The most interesting part of this institution in which we define our lives is that we are blind to its consequences because of our upbringing, in America, to care for only ourselves.
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0 # Aria 2014-06-09 06:49
I enjoyed reading this article because I did not really think of the bystander effect as a group dynamic. I was always interested in the idea of the bystander effect and how, if there are more people to help out, the less willing people will be. But, once I learned about it, I realized how true it was. But I did not really take into account how society being comprised of social beings relates to the concept. After reading this article, I can see how it takes being a leader to change how the whole group acts. If the leader leads us in a flawed way, then people will either follow the flawed leadership or a new leader has to come from the group and take it in a new direction.
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0 # tiamari 2014-06-10 00:00
I did not see the bystander issue in this aspect. After reading this article, I now see how leadership is vital. People are more likely to act if they have a strong leader that will guide them.
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0 # Sme 2014-06-10 00:00
We are taught individualistic thinking not collectivistic thinking; to think for ourselves and seek to find the best options for us. The Bystander Effect is a clear example of this; when there are a lot of people in one place we always expect someone else to help when there is an accident, in our minds we believe that since there are many of us in the same place someone would come forward and help. In contrast if there amount of people that is present is small, we tend to help more, because we are a small group of people. We as social creatures depend on each other, which makes it difficult to act on our own sometimes. If we all step back and expect someone else to do the things for us, we will fall back even further from helping change our society.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 13:54
Quoting Sme:
We are taught individualistic thinking not collectivistic thinking; to think for ourselves and seek to find the best options for us.
It's a mixed bag. We are raised by parents and other caregivers to learn right from wrong and how to behave properly - to say thank you and please, etc. When we're born we are helpless and narcissistic because we're infants and don't know how to feed ourselves or anything. We have to be taught how to behave with others and still get our needs met. These are all primarily social skills rather than individualistic thinking. On the other hand, the explicit ideology that dominates in this country is bourgeois individualism which claims that "human nature" is to be selfish. Cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-11 13:56
So it's not just that we're taught to be individualistic since we're taught both social skills and told that we are "naturally" self-centered. The two messages are conflicting but because the second message is the overt one and the first message is something we learn through osmosis and without knowing consciously why we do it, the overt message is what people tend to emphasize and think is the primary one, even tho pro's actions belie that.
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0 # James Dewey 2014-06-10 21:12
when i read your interpretation of the bystander effect, it invokes the thought of someone choking on a plane, and in order for that person to receive help from the group of people on the aircraft, someone needs to first realize the dilemma and then ask for help from the group. Such as exclaiming "Does anyone know CPR?" Since we are social beings, we wouldn't have noticed that something was wrong with one of the passengers, unless someone would have stepped out of the norm and made an exclamation.
To describe the person making the exclamation in Weberian terms, that person would be thought of as the charismatic leader, the person willing to break from the pluralistic ignorance and invoke a response from the group that the current situation is wrong.
This effect can be extrapolated into social change. Usually a social movement requires a charismatic leader breaking from the norm, informing the masses of the current oppressive situation.
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0 # Manuel Arias 2014-06-10 23:51
the article mentions how we are social beings, and we tend to do things in groups. which is true, we are always doing things together and when we are not we don't feel the same way. as for the incident of helping someone in need, we tend to hold back because we are not used to doing things alone, we wait for someone (a leader) steps up and that is when the rest of us follow. we do things together in society since we are little. leaders are the ones with the power in society as we have seen through life.
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0 # menava 2014-06-11 07:40
I find myself guilty of this too and blame the group whereas I should be looking at it from another point of view. I am not exactly sure where I got this idea that blaming that group would help any ill-fated situation become more understandable. As I read the comments, I think people are "spot on" with the belief that this group blame comes from an American Socialization of individualist thinking, but the more I give it thought I can think of situations of the bystander effect in collective cultures. People do need great leaders to take charge of any group activity, but of course, there's something convenient about letting someone else handle the problem. For myself, personally, I don't ever step up and lead unless I am fairly certain I can lead with accurately and fidelity to the greater plan/goal. I feel as woman I am often not looked upon to lead and therefore it further reinforces my lack of leadership skills in certain situations, even when I am confident in my ability to lead.
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0 # Christian Damian 2014-06-11 20:44
When I first heard about the diffusion of responsibility effect in my first psychology class back in high school it opened by eyes to a new environment that I had been unknowingly a part of. I had been moving to the motions set by my surroundings and did not question them. After I had been educated in the aspects of social dynamics I was able to make a more thorough perspective of what the "bystandard effect" really was. I came to the conclusion that it was caused not only by an ill-defined situations but by a lack of knowledge by the general population. We as a society are lacking in an education of what it means to be part of our society in a dynamic sense and how we effect society and how in turn society effects us. We may follow what the general crowd is doing and may depend on others to complete tasks we feel are a collective responsibility, however, if we were to be educated in social aspects we would be more readily able to step forward as a leader for the group.
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0 # Christian Damian 2014-06-11 21:33
If we are educated in the structures and processes of our society when we step forward as a leader, this education would be the artifact to divert leaders who may step up for their own hidden agenda or goals. The education that we would all have would allow us to see the wrong path that we are headed down and make a collective decision on where we should be headed. This way of functioning in a society would be a step forward in the path of equality for all the members of society. Of course there will need to be sacrifice from the minority of the population, but the majority must also be willing to compromise for a fair decision for both parties to continue to function as one unit.
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0 # Belinda Kil 2014-06-11 21:02
I think that this is a very important article to read about especially to better negative interactions and negative outcomes that occur because of events that cause the "bystander - effect". Just like the concluding paragraph explained "if [we] understand social dynamics" we can "overcome the shortcomings that humanity's social nature manifests". Today humanity seems to only look onto progressing in technology and anything that will result in efficiency. I think that besides progressing in materialistic ways humanity should look onto progressing as people, one important and obvious way we can is by making the "bystander effect" something of the pasts.
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0 # bobbybmartinez 2014-06-11 21:47
I think you point is spot on. Humans are too deeply rooted in becoming well know and popular for inventions and status, but very few are concerned with making a name for themselves by performs good acts and working together.
Because although we need each other to survive, we use each other as a step to reach the next goal.
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0 # bobbybmartinez 2014-06-11 21:44
The fact that we are one small unit of a larger group has a lot to do with this idea of bystanders effect simply because of the fact that we are social beings. The fact that we are social beings plays a big role on the reason why we try to do most important and major acts/ events in groups as opposed to performing individually. This stems from the mere fact that people don't want to feel outcasted or left out.
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0 # marcos1 2014-06-11 23:30
"The problem with humanity turns or falls on what kind of leadership is being exerted and what kind of systems we have that govern us as individuals and groups."

That was exactly my point a few articles ago. Systems are extremely important, but leadership is crucial. One man with a lot power can make a huge impact in the world, positive or negative.

It's also important to know that other factors are at play when people don't jump in and take leadership in any given situation. People tend to try to fit in so much that if they make an action to which there isn't a previous set of rules/examples, like stepping in, then they are afraid to be made fun of. I saw the video of the little girl getting ran over, it was extremely sad how people walked so casually around her. It's even sadder that the van driver didn't stop to help.
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0 # marcos1 2014-06-11 23:36
(continuing my comment)
That situation is a parent's worst nightmare, and I'm not sure why the people there didn't help, had that happened in America someone might have helped. Either way, not stepping in to help can have to do with fear. "What if I get killed/beat up?" It takes real courage to own up to a situation because of the risks you're taking by owning up to it.
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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12