Psychology Series: What are you doing to help people?

Before I begin let me introduce an idea I have come upon for my upcoming posts. Every month I will do a Psychology themed post, starting with this post and continuing on the first Wednesday of every month, excluding June since this is the “June” post. If you have any ideas for a post for this please let me know! Okay now I will get on with the post, thank you!

Imagine you are at a very crowded theme park, two members of different groups ahead of you start arguing over their place in line. One says the other cut in front of them and the other denies it. As this event unfolds, more and more people in the line turn their attention to the bickering, fight bound individuals. The fight continues and escalates into a fist fight. Soon security officers from the park take control over the fight, both parties are kicked out of the park.

While watching the argument begin, and soon turn into the fight, you and the people around you had two options: first, take your stand to separate the two and prevent the fight from starting, or second, silently watch and hope for someone else to take the initiative.

While some people may choose the latter, many people, possibly 80% of people according to one study, will choose to just watch. This “watching” is known as the Bystander Effect, and it occurs when someone’s presence in a group keeps them from intervening in an emergency.

Psychology Today states that for people to report, intervene, or do anything about the crime at hand they must first realize that they are witnessing a crime, and that if the other people around are acting calm about the situation, the bystander is likely to be calm as well.

The Bystander Effect relates to many situations seen in the average day. When a high schooler is watching a fight between his two of his peers he may not do anything to prevent the fight because the people around him look calm and seem to be enjoying it. This keeps the fight from being stopped, simply because of one spreading mood.

Another reason the Bystander Effect occurs is because when people are in a group, they each feel less responsibility for the victim than they would if they were the only one present with the victim. When there is only one witness to a situation, he or she feels that all the responsibility for helping the victim lies on them. However, when there is a group of people around the victim, each person feels that it is not their responsibility to help, and that one of the many other people will help.

This doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t want to help the victim, it just means that he or she doesn’t feel as responsible in a group as they would by themselves or that they feel that someone else could do a better job of helping, while not realizing that some help is better than no help at all.

This is a major problem in many harmful situations, but it can be avoided. Here are some tips for overcoming the effect and helping victims in these situations or for helping yourself if you ever find yourself in this situation.

  1. Use your eyes and good judgement. Be observant and look for things that seem out of place. If you see something happening and your first instinct is that something is wrong, stick with it, it’s probably right. Even if it turns out to be nothing at all at least you tried to help. Reaching out to someone never hurts either party.
  2. Use eye contact. If you happen to be a victim in a bad situation don’t just wail for help from anyone. While this is somewhat helpful, a much more effective way is to make eye contact with one person and ask them for their help.
  3. Do something if someone needs help! By taking the initiative to help the victim you are encouraging others to help as well, and among the crowd might be someone more qualified to help with that specific situation.

Thank you for reading! Please like or leave feedback if you enjoyed this post! I love to hear from my readers. Stay tuned for more.

Check out Part II and Part III!

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