It is more common in big city settings. We're all in a hurry, we rush around. But in small towns we tend to recognize other people, their faces are familiar to us. And that makes us more likely to help. But in cities it's often strangers who are in trouble, and we feel less pull to help somebody who we don't recognize, we don't know, we don't understand, who maybe speaks a different language.
But Lange said she and other experts dispute that interpretation of the bystander effect.
It has more to do with the shock of witnessing a traumatic event and becoming stuck in a confusing state of mind as to what - if anything - to do.
The concern can be part group mentality, part concern for personal well-being.
"You look around and if no one else is reacting, you don't want to look like a fool, like you're over-reacting," she said.
The findings are framed in accordance with the bystander effect. A marginally significant interaction of gender and condition was also discovered. Males helped at the same rate as females in the non-social condition, but helped more than females in the social condition. This provides support for the social role theory of helping, based on the socially conditioned mores that a man should help a woman in need.
Folks such as [Wesley Autrey] and Villarreal may have a "mind-set" that predisposes them to act in highly moral and self-confident ways, he says. When a sudden emergency situation arises, they react unconsciously to help others, without debating it. It's also likely that both men's military background (Autrey is a veteran of the Navy; Villarreal, of the Air Force) played a role, he says. Such training may have also helped Autrey to overcome the "bystander effect" -- the well-documented tendency among humans to not come to the rescue when in groups, thanks to the diffusion of a sense of responsibility.
When I knelt beside him, trying to figure out whether he was unconscious or drunk (the latter), strangers rushed to offer their mobile phones. They were willing to help, but only if someone else took charge of the situation.
This reaction is so well known in psychology that it's called the "bystander effect". It's counterintuitive: the more people who witness a traumatic event, the less likely they are to intervene, leaving it to someone else to take the initiative.
In situations where there's a clear threat--when someone is trying to extinguish a raging car fire, rather than merely struggling to change a flat tire--the bystander effect actually diminishes. "It's counterintuitive," says Krueger. "As the costs of a behavior become higher, you should be less likely to help."
In the case of the Holocaust, and probably in most genocides since then, active participants on the one hand and those who fought against them (whether by rescuing intended victims or in other ways) were a minority compared to those who took no action one way or the other. The most relevant psychological research here is that of Latane and Darley (1970). Moved by the failure of observers to intervene in an actual murderous assault in New York, these social psychologists devised a series of studies that succeeded in showing that people are likely to remain bystanders unless they are somehow brought to perceive a personal responsibility to step in.
Twenty-nine years ago the murder of Kitty Genovese in the New York City borough of Queens shocked America.
The fact that 38 people heard or saw Genovese being stabbed to death and failed to call the police spawned dozens of editorials about the callousness of city dwellers.
Huggins' murder is just one of several recent incidents that evoke the disturbing memory of the bystanders who turned their back on Genovese.
When people alter environmental conditions, or reorganize or redistribute resources in an attempt to benefit others, they are actively caring from an environmental perspective. The reduced tendency among observers of an emergency to help a victim when they believe other potential helpers are available has been termed the bystander effect. This phenomenon has been replicated in several situations, even when the subjects are acquainted, which is most analogous to work settings.
To counter the bystander effect when you are the victim, a studied recommendation is to pick a specific person in the crowd to appeal to for help rather than appealing to the larger group generally. If you are the only person reacting to an emergency, point directly to a specific bystander and give them a specific task such as, "You. Call the police." These steps place all responsibility on a specific person instead of allowing it to diffuse. (para. 5)