The Bystander Effect - Essay Example

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University of Richmond
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In psychology, the bystander effect is regarded as something negative. More specifically, scholars who have studied the bystander effect substantiate that the presence of other individuals in a critical situation reduces the likelihood that a person will help (Fischer, Krueger, Greitemeyer, Vogrincic, Kastenmuller, Frey, Kainbacher, 2011). For instance, in this particular YouTube video, people who witnessed the 7-year-old girl being abducted just ignored the situation. Generally, people either walked right past the kidnapper or blatantly ignored even with the little girls cries.

Nonetheless, on analyzing this case from a psychological perspective, there is proof that the fact that people just walked away even after witnessing the girl being abducted, does not mean that they all were uncaring. For instance, there are those people who showed their honest concern by repeatedly looking back to assess the situation and also gave the little girl a piteous look. However, the point is a mere concern, in itself, is not enough to rescue the girl from being kidnapped. Instead, action, such as intervening or asking Bill to leave the innocent child alone, was needed (Keenermarc, 2009). With regard to the psychological understanding of the bystander effect, most people who chose not to get involved mainly believed that someone else, just not themselves, would assume responsibility and rescue the young girl from the situation. Thus, as clearly depicted in the video, such an assumption is deadly since this, in essence, did not prevent the kidnapper from abducting the young girl.

What These Experiments Tell Us About The Way In Which Bystander Individuals Respond To A Crisis When Part Of A Group?

Based on the results of experiments like this, we learn that there are various underlying reasons why the bystanders behave in this manner when they are indeed part of a group. Notably, the presence of other people, say in a group, influences peoples helping behavior in an emergency situation. For example, in their study, Plotner, Over, Carpenter and Tomasello contend that the manner in which bystanders respond to a crisis when part of a group can be attributed to pluralistic ignorance. In this regard, the primary reason why they fail to intervene is owing to the fact that they do not even realize that they are witnessing a crime. Thus, this kind of behavior is as a result of the bystanders assuming that other people in the group may know something they do not. As a result, bystanders will often look to others to see how they are responding.

How This Compares With My Own Observations and Experience with Bystanders

The case of the girl being abducted compares with my very own experience in the presence of bystanders. One excellent example of my experience with bystanders is when I was in mid-school, and her husband was assaulting a neighbor in our apartment. Although her wails and screams were loud enough, everyone in the apartment chose to do nothing in the rescue of the assaulted woman. As a matter of fact, all I could hear were people trying to secure their door locks and hush their children to remain silent. Although it was evident that my parents pitied the woman and also that they were bothered by the cries, my parents alongside other neighbors did not take any action. Most of them assumed that maybe someone who was possibly close enough to the victims house should have taken action first.


Fischer, P., Krueger, J. I., Greitemeyer, T., Vogrincic, C., Kastenmuller, A., Frey, D.,& Kainbacher, M. (2011). The bystander-effect: A meta-analytic review on bystander intervention in dangerous and non-dangerous emergencies. Psychological Bulletin, 137(4), 517-537. doi:10.1037/a0023304

Keenermarc. (2009). Bystander Effect - people watch girl being abducted. Retrieved from

Plotner, M., Over, H., Carpenter, M., & Tomasello, M. (2015). Young Children Show the Bystander Effect in Helping Situations. Psychological Science, 26(4), 499-506. doi:10.1177/0956797615569579

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