This study will make you feel a lot better about humankind


Most rural to big city transplants tend agree that the omnipresent apathy assigned to the modern age, is largely hyperbolized. It’s not that savvy city slickers are devoid of empathy, it’s more that the kind of maturity reared in a densely populated area is one that requires one gets better and better at surveying what and who are deserving of it.

Bystander ethics are complicated; there so much to consider.  For one thing, the more people there are present during a crisis, the less likely each individual is to get involved, reasoning that someone will surely step in.  This is illustrated famously via the murder of Kitty Genovese, which occurred on March 13, 1964, birthing what we call “The Bystander Effect.” “The Bystander Effect” states that people are more compelled to intervene in an emergency situation if they are the only ones witnessing it.

Perhaps the circumstances that informed the coinage were misrepresented, or maybe our communal psychology has evolved since its inception, in either case, a new study published in American Psychologist concludes that bystanders will intervene nine times out of 10 if they witness an emergency situation. Moreover, the data motions in direct refutation of the literature that proceeds it; the more people around the more likely the intervention.  From the report: “We argue that it is time for psychology to change the narrative away from an absence of help and toward a new understanding of what makes intervention successful or unsuccessful.”

Prevalence of Intervention in public conflicts

The study titled, Would I be helped?  began with a review of surveillance footage of roughly 200 violent altercations that took place all across the world.  All of the skirmishes took place in urban areas, but the footage selection only adhered to the following criteria: The altercation had to begin with no police interference. It had to reasonably be able to be described as an animated disagreement or detail grave physical violence. It had to be aggressive to some degree, it had to involve at least two people and the scrap had to progress organically.

As far as the bystander specifications were concerned, a successful intervention was defined as any instances of “pacifying gesturing, calming touches, blocking a contact, holding, pushing or pulling an aggressor away, consoling a victim” or providing practical help.  With this rubric in mind, it was determined that people try to attenuate an emergency situation 91% of the time, and an average of three people would volunteer to aid their fellow citizens per altercation. The global study observed no disparity between cities or countries.

“Our study suggests that if assaulted in public you will most likely be helped by a bystander,” said Richard Philpot, a psychology research fellow at Lancaster University and the study’s lead author. “This is reassuring for potential victims of violence, the public as a whole, and … has important implications for our understanding of bystanders as a crime-preventive resource.”