How many of you have witnessed a car accident or any emergency where someone needs help? I’m sure many of you have. Even if you haven’t experienced something major you will be able to relate to what I am going to tell you next. It is common behavior of people to take no action to help someone in need when they are surrounded by a crowd. If you’ve recognized it, you’ll know this name – the Bystander Effect. It is the term for the situation we’ve all come across at least once in our lives. Not just accidents or emergencies, even a small thing like picking up litter from a public place. Most of us put it off, thinking someone else will put it in the bin. And that thought process is the mechanism behind the Bystander Effect. However, as you’ve seen, it can turn to be fatal too at times. This is why we need to come up with different ideas and solutions to combat it. And that is what this article is about. Read it and use it in your life to save a life.
The Bystander Effect
The term ‘bystander effect’ gives a slight idea about its meaning to even those who don’t know about it. It has something to do with bystanders – people who are present in a situation but are not actively taking part in it. The psychologists Latane and Darley coined this term after the results of one of their most prominent experiments. Through their experiments, they wanted to find out the amount of time people take to help others, depending on the number of people present in the room.
Subjects were placed in three condition rooms. The rooms had varying observers – in one condition, the participants were alone. in the second condition, they had two other participants with them. In the third condition, there is one participant and two confederates pretending to be participants. The participants were told to fill in some questionnaires. While they were doing so, smoke started filling the rooms. The experimenters wanted to know how often and quickly did people report the smoke. Participants who were alone reported the smoke more often than the participants who were with other people. The result of this experiment led to the coining of the term – the Bystander Effect.
Factors Contributing to the Bystander Effect
Now that I have told you all that there is a phenomenon like this, some of you must be denying it. All of us want to help, so why wouldn’t we when there is someone in need? Some of you must be thinking, “There is nothing like this, if I am in a situation like this, I’ll always help.” Contrary to what most of you must be thinking, not many people actually help when they are in a situation with bystanders. And there are proven reasons for the same –
- Diffusion of Responsibility – As there are so many people around, one person feels less responsible and less pressured to take an action.
- Social Acceptance – Most of us wish to behave in socially acceptable ways. In situations where nobody else is taking any action, people find it more socially correct to do the same.
- Ambiguous Situation – A lot of times onlookers do not know the complete situation or feel that it is too ambiguous to decide the course of action. In this scenario, people tend to look at other people for approval and to judge the best way of action.
But there should be a solution? What can we do to prevent it? “I don’t want to end up being so irresponsible” – all of you must have thought right now. And you’ll be happy to know that yes, there is a solution. Now that everyone knows about a phenomenon like this, awareness campaigns and training are conducted to guide people, giving them the course of action in emergencies. One such intervention is the Bystander Intervention. All you kind-hearted souls, read the next section and be satisfied knowing that you can be responsible.
Bystander Intervention – ACT
The first step in helping someone is the desire to help. Once you have recognized that you want to help someone, overcoming the bystander effect becomes easier. We all have achieved the first step after reading this article – we all want to help. The question lies in the way we can help. What can we do in these situations? Bystander interventions aim at doing just that. There have been several interventions that give a step-by-step guide to helping someone in need. One of the models to remember while being a bystander in an emergency is ACT.
A – Assist
C – Call For Help
T – Tell Someone
Remembering this acronym helps you in being proactive in an emergency without waiting for other people to act. Using the ACT acronym is just one of the ways to intervene in emergencies. There is another model that people can use when in doubt. The other model is the CARE model.
C – Confront the situation
A – Alert others
R – Redirect attention
E – Engage peers
The CARE model also gives the people the guide to act in bystander situations. Once you’ve realized you need to help and you want to help, you need to act and assist people. If you’re in doubt, it is better to engage other people instead of looking at them for approval. Being active and trying to know how to help is better than thinking about wanting to help and waiting for someone to start. To be active, you need to know what to do. As this is a guide on bystander interventions, I cannot end before giving you some steps and tips about the ways to respond.
- Offer unconditional support and care. Let the survivor know that you believe in them and that you’re there for them.
- Don’t tell/ask the survivor what to do. The survivor might be in a traumatized state or even just a bit distraught to think about what to do and have the right decisions quickly. It is better that you take the necessary steps and help them to your better judgment.
- Don’t press for details. A person who has just experienced a distressing situation, might not want to remember it and have flashbacks of the same. If they are willing to tell you something, listen empathetically. If they are reluctant, don’t press for information. Only try to help them.
Go Save Lives
With this, this crash course in helping people ends. You have been given information about the phenomenon that might affect you, the factors that might lead to it, and how to stop it. All this information can ultimately lead to more people saving lives and the world being a kinder place. If you did like this article, and if this helped in your change of heart then do share it with people so that more people can benefit from it. If not, at least all those reading, you need to remember the information and make others aware as much as you can.