Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 05/03/2010

“Bystander Effect”

Recently there was a blurb in an on-line news site about 25 people who all walked by a homeless man, bleeding on the streets of Queens, New York because he had come to the aid of a woman who was being attacked by some thug with a knife. Surveillance video revealed that one man actually stopped and took a picture with his cell phone and kept right on going.  Another passerby, shook the bleeding victim and decided not to do any more than that.

Oh, but it gets better.

Now we have a “syndrome” to justify the inhumanity.  “Bystander Effect”.  Social psychologists have some pretty articulate narrative to make this sound almost believable.  It begins with the theory that any one bystander will do no more than the other bystanders, that all assume that someone else will intervene. Since no one seems to be doing much, there is kind of a group numbing effect to our individual capacity to empathize.

Furthermore, denial seems to be a big part of this equation.  The thought being that a bystander might say to himself, “Hey, I just came out here to walk my dog, not rescue someone bleeding to death.”  Social scientists also think that there is an inherent link to why other members in a family stand by and/or remain silent when another family member, living under the same roof, is abused, either physically or emotionally.  Ditto bullying in schools.  That is how the kid doing the bullying isn’t called out on his horrible behavior.

Wow.  Can we justify everything now with a label?  I know, know without a second thought that I would never take out the trash and step over a bleeding human being while I was doing so.  Never.  I just can’t buy this mob mentality justification.


Why don’t we just call this what it is?



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