The Bystander Effect

  • By Derek Leung

    Usually, when there is a physical fight, if there enough people, they will soon form a circle around the fight, usually without helping the victim of the fight. After the fight is over, the crowd will disperse, leaving the injured victim behind with little to no people helping them. This is often attributed to the bystander effect.

    The bystander effect is a phenomenon in which the more bystanders witnessing an event, the less likely anybody from that crowd is going to help the victim. However, there are many factors contributing to this. One such factor is diffusion of responsibility. This is when a bystander is not willing to offer help to the victim because other people are around and the bystander assumes that others will take the responsibility.

    A personal example of this,exhibiting the diffusion of responsibility, was when I was working in a group project with some of my classmates. There was one part of the project, bringing supplies in, that nobody wanted to do. Therefore, we had all naturally assumed that somebody else would bring in all the supplies. However, in the end, nobody had done it.

    -This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

    There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

    Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

    Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

    Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

    It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done

    -Charles Osgood

    However, this could be avoided if the victim specifically addressed that certain person. This would eliminate that factor and make it more likely for that specific person to help.


    Another factor is ambiguity. This is often referred to as the vagueness of the situation and whether or not it is obvious that the victim needs help. High ambiguity is when it is unclear whether the victim needs help, and can delay reaction rates up to five times longer. However, if there is low ambiguity, such as when the victim is calling for help, people are more likely to react. The consequence is also a factor in this. If there is low ambiguity and consequence, bystanders are more likely to help. However, if there is high ambiguity and significant consequence, then it is less likely that bystanders will intervene.

    Some more info:

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