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The Bystander Effect: Can you help when others won’t?

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

You’re walking towards your office building on the way to work. All of a sudden, the person just ahead of you on the sidewalk stops and starts grabbing their chest. You freeze. Questions like "what is happening" and "does this person actually need help" immediately start racing through your mind.

Almost as quickly as the questions started , you begin to doubt whether you should help. "What can you really do?" The thoughts transition quickly to feeling as though someone else will surely help this person. This is known as The Bystander Effect.

The Bystander Effect is real and it may be a lot more common than you think. In one particular well-known study conducted by a professor at Princeton University, 85% of people who were alone when they thought someone was in trouble went immediately to the person’s aid. It wasn’t the same when there six people present who all saw a person in need. Only 31% of the six people (so less than 2 of them) ended up trying to help when there was a group of six people. The Bystander Effect gave the six people the feeling that "someone else will help".

Feeling as though “someone else will look after that person” is a very natural feeling but helping someone when they really need it (even if it’s to call 911) feels amazing.

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