What is the Bystander Effect?
When you notice an event that is unsafe and reacts in ways that are useless or harmful.
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This is not unique to age, culture, or income. Sometimes you just freeze and do nothing or make things worse because:
- You don’t understand what you see
- Your curiosity is more in control than your sense of what is happening
- You are afraid
- You are in disbelief
- You don’t know what to do
- You think someone else is taking care of the problem
Your behaviour can even become harmful because, for example, you get in the way of emergency responders.
Once I would have spoken in outrage against bystanders but one day I was caught myself. I saw a woman being pulled by the hair and immediately set about to help her. I was distracted momentarily by a friend who was afraid that I would get hurt if I did. I found myself momentarily confused and not quite sure what to do. I regained myself but the event left me with the realization as to just how easy it is to become a useless bystander.
I doubt that it would happen again. For warned is for armed but it was still disconcerting. Imagine just how much harder it would be for those who have no training.
How to overcome the bystander effect
The following article covers a who range of strategies that, if practised will go a long way to overcoming the bystander effect. You have to realize it is written for a US audience but by changing the number from 911 to 000 the article becomes just as relevant to Australia as anywhere else in the world.