Posted By Kristabella on January 27, 2010
Have you ever heard of the term Bystander Effect?
According to Wikipedia, it is defined as follows:
The bystander effect is the somewhat controversial name given to a social psychological phenomenon in cases where individuals do not offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present.
Basically it says that the more people who are around to witness a crime, the less likely people will actually help.
This morning on the radio, they played the following clip from NBC News:
If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, the premise is that they set up a fake child abduction to see who would help, all while the child’s mom watched, hidden in a van, to see who would come to the aid of her child.
I always wonder what I would do in a situation like this. Hearing this on the radio, without any accompanying images, I can tell you, when the kid first starts screaming “You’re not my dad!” there would be no way in hell that I would help. I would have assumed it was a bratty kid who was with her stepdad or mom’s new boyfriend and was pitching a fit.
But as the clip goes on, she clearly starts yelling HELP and asks people to help her because “this is not my dad.”
And it got me wondering – would I have stepped in to help?
I wrote before how I would protect kids from harm, whether they were mine or not, especially when they are in my care. But a situation like this? It makes me wonder what I would do.
Part of my hesitation is that I am a woman. And if a large man (albeit I am not petite flower by any means) was doing the attacking, I know my first thought would be “that man will kill me and the kid.”
But the sound of that girl screaming, although staged, is still playing over and over in my head. Could I be selfless enough to step in, even though I might get hurt? Or I might have misjudged the situation? Shouldn’t that be what I do? As an adult and as a human being?
Obviously, there is no question that if I know the kid/person, I’m stepping in. But why should I have the hesitation with someone else, someone I don’t know, someone not related to me? That isn’t fair. And wouldn’t I want someone to step in if the roles were reversed?
I feel lucky that I haven’t been on either side of this issue. But it definitely makes me wonder and makes me want to somehow ensure that I would react and wouldn’t just wait for someone else to help. Like they said in the video, the worst that could happen if you stepped in would be that you could be wrong and the situation wasn’t what you thought. And no one really wants to imagine what the worst that would happen if you didn’t step in.
So what do you all think, what do you think you would do?