The Bystander Effect


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The purpose of this paper is to analyse how the bystander effect, “the likelihood that an individual will intervene in an emergency goes down as the number of bystanders increases” (Olson, Breckler, Wiggins, 2008, p.482), occurs in chosen an emergency situation (Appendix nr1). I am going to show why and how participant’s behaviour confirms or not that effect.
There are many interactions among people witnessing an emergency situation. Behaviours of witnesses are influenced by occurring psychological reactions and responses to situation. “A false impression of how other people are thinking, feeling and responding” (Karn, 2010,) creates a common ignorance and influences bystander’s behaviours. Interpretation of situation as a nonemergency is based on other bystander’s reactions or their no reactions. The presence of others diminishes a feeling of personal responsibility (Karn, 2010).
Because an emergency case chosen for analysis contains an element of aggression I introduce now the social psychological definition of aggression that is: “behaviour that is intended to injure someone physically or psychologically” and a special kinds of aggression, such as a hostile aggression:”harm-doing that arises out of negative emotions such as anger, frustration, or hatred” (Olson and all, 2008, p. 419). I use also the GAM (General Aggression Model) theory: ”a broad theory that conceptualizes aggression as the result of a chain of psychological processes, including situational events, aggressive thoughts and feelings, and interpretation of the situation” (Olson and all, 2008, p. 423), and frustration-aggression hypothesis, “proposition that frustration always leads to some form of aggression” (Olson and all, 2008, p. 425).
I also apply Latane and Darley’s decision tree “that specified a series of decisions that must be made before a person will intervene in an emergency” (Olson and all, 2008, p. 479). Five different processes should occur for intervention to happen, such as: (1) the event must be noticed (if an individual do not notice he/she will not help), (2) the event must be interpreted as an emergency (witnesses fail to intervene, because they do not interpret the event as an emergency), (3) a personal responsibility must be accepted (if other people are present a witness can assume that others will help), (4) an appropriate form of assistance needs to be chosen, and finally (5) the action has to be implemented. If a negative response occurs at any stage of the process the bystander will not intervene.
As a passenger of TAXI I observed two drivers before the emergency situation began.

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This may lead to DIFFUSION OF RESPONSIBILITYWhich may be why no one helped

The emergency situation took place in Paris on the Champs-Elysees avenue in the last week of June 2010, about 7.00 PM. Direct participants of the events were two drivers. One of them was driving a car - black Mercedes (the Older one), the other rode a scooter (the Younger one). Both drivers were dressed in suits. The scooter’s driver had the white helmet. The Mercedes driver was following a scooter for a long time, trying unsuccessfully to overtake it. He tried to communicate his intention to scooter’s driver using car’s lights and the horn. It seemed that the Younger driver ignored the Older driver staying while driving in the middle of lane. After some time when they both stopped at the intersection, the driver of the Mercedes left the car and attacked the driver of a scooter. The fight began on the edge of the pavement quickly focusing the attention of passerby. At the beginning the Younger driver was quite passive only protecting himself. When the Older driver did not calm down still beating him, he started to act more aggressively using his helmet to fight with. From this moment bystander became more active trying to stop the scrimmage by yelling and using horns (cars drivers), and finally some men started to separate successfully belligerents. After 10-15 minutes a police arrived.


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