[ Question ]

Bystander effect false?

by Ben Pace 1 min read12th Jul 20194 comments


Can someone check this link out and see whether the methodology is actually sound?

One-line summary is that Surveillance Cameras Debunk the Bystander Effect H/T Hacker News.

More broadly I'm interested in anyone's sense of whether the bystander effect replicates, and whether the corresponding concept is misleading (and I should use something else instead).

New Answer
Ask Related Question
New Comment
Write here. Select text for formatting options.
We support LaTeX: Cmd-4 for inline, Cmd-M for block-level (Ctrl on Windows).
You can switch between rich text and markdown in your user settings.

2 Answers

The standard claim in bystander effect research is that an individual bystander's probability of intervening goes down as the number of bystanders increases (see, e.g., Wikipedia). Whereas this study looked at the probability of any intervention from the group of bystanders, which is a different thing.

The abstract of the paper actually begins with this distinction:

Half a century of research on bystander behavior concludes that individuals are less likely to intervene during an emergency when in the presence of others than when alone. By contrast, little is known regarding the aggregated likelihood that at least someone present at an emergency will do something to help.

So: not a debunking. And another example of why it's good practice to check the paper in question (or at least its abstract) and the Wikipedia article(s) on the topic rather than believing news headlines.

There may be a mild "Schrödinger's bystander" effect casting doubt on this new research as well. Nowadays people believe that their heroic actions are likely to be recorded, by cell phone or security camera, so that they will get their deserved recognition afterwards.