The Bystander Effect | The Science of Empathy
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The Bystander Effect | The Science of Empathy


If a stranger needed help how long would it take you to offer them a hand? According to psychology the answer to that question may depend less on who you are as a person and more on how many people are with you at the time. In a strange paradox of human nature the more people there are in a group, the less likely anyone is to offer help. It’s called the bystander effect, and it may be a roadblock that’s keeping you from showing empathy When someone is in need people in large groups tend to feel that they don’t need to do anything because someone else will take care of it. This is known as the diffusion of responsibility The end result is nobody does anything, and if you don’t believe me I’ll show you we started with a large group of 10 people and told them they were here today to see a product demonstration. So we’re just basically looking for emotional reactions to certain products. We’re not quite ready to go yet. So as you can see you have these surveys go ahead start filling them out take all the time you need with them. I am gonna go get the product and just Kinda start throwing it together, and then we’re gonna begin sound good everyone? okay cool. Thanks Here’s the thing though, everybody but one of these people wasn’t in on it We gave her a 10-minute window where she could offer to help. Let’s see if she comes to my rescue We repeated this a few more times with varying results. Next we tried it with a group of five. Oh geez So far it’s not looking good for people in general Are we just plain unhelpful? Or is there something to the bystander effect. To find out let’s see how helpful people are when they’re all by themselves Hi The results with our group of 10 people: it took our participants an average of 8 minutes and 1 second before they lent a hand Can I help? I just feel bad Participants in our groups of 5 were a little quicker saving me from the tent with an average time of 7 minutes and 25 seconds Uh. Do you need help? Do you want to give me a hand? Yeah. That’d be great thank you. What can I do? But when our participants were by themselves that is when they really shined Thank you so much. On average They offered to step in in just 3 minutes and 19 seconds. You were the fastest by a country mile I have set this thing up by myself 7 times today completely you took a total of 12 seconds why why do you think you’re so quick to do it? I like to help in any way that I can. that’s the funny thing about the bystander effect You would think that a group with more people would mean there’s a higher chance someone would do something But people in a group are actually less likely to help I knew I should have just stood up and done it But then a big part of you wanted to see what these people would do and I was just kind of like our than any Of them gonna help. At first I was a little shy to jump it in help, but then after I just you know I’m just gonna jump in and help. Thank you I appreciate it. You’re welcome All right, took 8 minutes. When it’s just the two of us in this space. There’s like a bond that’s created It’s like I’m not gonna let you struggle on your own, and I think if there is a group of people It’s way more acceptable for me to be doing that. it’s the diffusion of responsibility I think that’s totally true. if something is saying jump in and offer the help Just follow that intuition even though no one else is saying anything just hey if you can be a part of helping someone Instead of just watching the struggle or even take out your cell phone. You’re like tape it or something like that which is the worst? Just offer some help So now that you know about the bystander effect ask yourself How often do you feel like you should help someone, but don’t because you think somebody else will do it Maybe next time you will be that somebody

100 thoughts on “The Bystander Effect | The Science of Empathy

  1. It's not only like 'oh someone else will do it' but it's more like "oh, no one is doing it. Maybe I shouldn't either. Because I'm taking this test thing"

  2. I wouldnt help in a big group cause i'm too socially anxious and afraid they would stare or laugh, not because of denying my responsibility

  3. When someone is about to put up a tent in A ROOM I dont know if I would help… because it makes no sense.. xD I thought bystander affect has something to do when someone is hurt, so it would be better if you act like you would pass out and then see what the people would do 🙂

  4. Wow I can totally get this. I remember two situations (both on the bus) where i reacted the way he said people generally do. First one was when the bus was super crowded and the bus driver asked someone to check if there was room for a stroller. I did look but i never did plan to say anything. When i realized everybody thought the same i decided to tell im. Still it was silent for a while. Another situation an old lady needed to get off the bus, i was one of the few so i instantly decided to help because of the lack of people. It's so crazy how accurate this one was.

  5. Great experiment! Great result!
    I really don't like the setting, though. Looks like a cliché laboratory from a child series.

  6. I would not have helped him mostly because i don't know anything about setting up a tent and how the heck are you gonna show this when you can't even put this together.

  7. I like doing the fakie-outie.. where you kinda offer to help but immediately say "you got it, you're good" . Not only did I offer to help, but I gave you positive reinforcement.

  8. Yes, this test environment was poorly thought out. The host is telling them to sit down, so they may fear acting out of line this role which is also confirmed by other people, especially because it's the host who may or may not need help. Still, the bystander effect might apply, but it might be confounded by other effects such as shame in this case or going against the rules. Also, small sample size.

  9. In school they taught us that if something happens to you in public (being attacked or hurt or whatever) you shouldn’t just scream for help. You should pick someone and say something like „hey you, in that red jacket“.
    Usually people wouldn’t help bc of the pressure of the public situation but when you address a single person, they suddenly do help for the same reason.

  10. As some have said this predicament is tricky as people are doing their jobs. I have to carry large tables in front of the public at work and some people offer to help with doors, although I do this regularly, because I often get close to them, it's almost out of embarrassment. I think the best bystander thing I saw was having one test person plus nine who were aware, slowly filling a waiting room with stage smoke to see hiwlong they would sit there whilst the others didn't react. Crazy how people would sit there not able to see their hands because they didn't want to stand out. Perhaps on the subject of asking for or offering help, people don't want to stand out, but I think you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help if you need it, people play victim until someone notices, which I also think is problematic

  11. Well I don't feel bad because I always try to help and I don't really care if I'm the only one or the first one. Today in class I offered twice to help the teachers when no one else did

  12. I was bullied there was only one person who bullied me but 15 people were bystanders and did nothing to help they were just as bad

  13. This was done so badly.

    In order to do it properly, nobody should be on it.
    What you are interested in is how many people will offer to help IN A GROUP OF RANDOM PEOPLE.
    If in that group only one person is allowed to help, the probability changes drastically.

    Dislike.

  14. The problem I see with this experiment is that he’s putting together a tent. Which I have no close how to put together myself. So I probably would’ve just sat there too

  15. That dude fuckin up that tent has me shook from just the intro, good lord, I wanted to jump into the screen….

  16. Maybe do it on something different.when its on a review, maybe they expect to grade on how easy it is to set it up by yourself which isnt easy. But if you did first aid, opening doors, carrying something, holding an item, helping a mother or father etc then it would change the results. Either way i would of still helped. Im a helpful person either way

  17. The statement at 1:29 seems completely contradictory to the exercise.
    I each case, only ONE person is being tested, right?
    But both the words and the voice ove say " Everybody BUT ONE of these people WASN'T in on it"
    Surely what is meant is "Everybody, BUT ONE, of these people WAS in on it."

  18. Please take into account the person's view on social rules before drawing a conclusion with this kind of test.

    About this particular scenario, sometimes offering help to a man who is doing something fairly straightforward (especially if it is a technical task) it can be taken as undermining. My own partner of 8 years has a problem with shop assistants for this very reason – if he wanted their help he would have asked.

    Anticipating another persons emotional response is, of course, involved and empathetic behaviour. I think the test subjects needed a social cue to signal helping was an acceptable action. Many of them were looking for your eye contact

    For the same reason we are told no matter how much it seems so – do not assume a woman is pregnant! Unless she says to you "I am pregnant".
    Another assumption best avoided is making someone feel awkward or worse irritated by offering unwanted help. Unless they say to you "I would like some help."

  19. How embarrassed would you feel if you offered to help a little old lady with her heavy shopping but she started yelling and calling you a thief?

    Not all offers of help are appreciated.
    Social cues are important, especially when interacting with strangers.

  20. Ohhhh the guy who picked up his phone and filmed was in on it. Didn't see him in the big crowd before I went back a little to see it again. I was about to get mad pissed off lol

  21. It's a shame you decided to hit the torch light when there was one person to encourage them to help sooner. Surly this data is a bit useless due to this change in the experiment.

  22. If you tell me I gotta do some tests and you start building a tent in front of me, I would think it wouldn't be appropriate to do what's not my task. I think this was a problems in the experiment

  23. I honestly have to say it's different for me from a day to day basis
    Some days I would help immediately, some (not that often) I wouldn't bother at all, even if I was alone

  24. I think a big part of the bystander effect is not feeling confident in a situation and hoping/assuming that someone else would be better equipped to deal with it. In case of a medical emergency for example I would hesitate before getting involved because I would assume that someone else would be trained or better able to help than I would be. But if I was a doctor or had some first aid training I would feel more confident stepping up. Or if I saw no one else was helping I like to think I would get involved.

  25. lol meanwhile there is me the one person who wouldn't dare to help you even if I was alone. I'm way too afraid to help out someone because I'm scared of what others would think and what they themselves would think especially when I don't know how to help them. The more people there are the less I feel like the person who needs help would think of me badly for not helping. It's weird but that's me because people made me scared to even breath because I'm scared that they are going to smell my horrible breath.

  26. The problem here is that the presenter is supposed to be professional and know what to do. The presenter knows what needs to be done, and should know how to do their job. The watchers are expecting a formal presentation, and are meant to just watch. At least, that's what I would think. In my opinion, offering someone to help them with their job who probably has other employees and colleagues around isn't necessary. Then again, it depends on the situation. If a cliche tripping in the hallway and spilling papers would to happen, that would be different. The person isn't prepared for what is going on, and bystanders aren't given a role to play. It is still nice to see people helping the guy set up.

  27. I'm not even bothered by this unless I'm in a hurry, and then I'm much less likely to help somebody. I'm always helping people even in large groups. The main thing that stops me is wondering "are they actually struggling or am I being dramatic? will I make them feel like an invalid if I extend help when they don't need it?"

  28. My mom told me a story from when she was a kid. She used to live in these really crappy apartment's in ghetto Stockton. One day, a man was shot in the parking lot of the apartment in a drive by. He was crying for help up to three hours before dying. No one did anything because no one wanted to take the blame. My mom (and rest of apartment) literally watched a man die before her eyes. When she told me this, I hated her for not doing anything. Now I understand. I stood by a 13 year old being stabbed at a frat party and did absolutely nothing. I think about that kid every single night…

  29. One of the issues with this is the fact that, if I were in the audience, I have never set up a tent and wouldn't offer to help because…I don't know what I'm doing. However, it it were a task I've done regularly and feel confident in doing, I'd be more inclined to lend a hand whether or not other people offered.

  30. I have always been the one in any group of people that says "I'll just do it". If nobody volunteers, I do it, but if everyone volunteers, I don't. I just want to make people feel comfortable around me in a way they feel that they don't have to feel guilty for not doing it themselves. I like helping, even if I'm in a crowd of people. I honestly love watching this!

  31. It's a totally natural to help some one who needs help. Most of us were taught by or parents and grandparents to be helpful. I don't agree with these "test"

  32. Nicely demonstrated. Observed these in daily routines and truly people are not with the attitude not to help but several other factors like: Some one may help, fear/worry/un-comfort in that group…..

  33. I am sure the bystander feels annoyed by the tent being set up so close to them while filling out the survey. People just want to complete their paper as soon as the others in the room. Plus the fact that everyone else in the group seems to ignore all the noise. Very confusing……..

  34. I usually don't help if I know I wouldn't be helpful. Like in the case of the tent, I never set up a tent in my life so I would just think my being there would be less helpful. The girl who went to help the fastest went to pick up the water bottle that fell over, which is an easy fix that you can easily help with??

  35. Hm… it can depend on who you're with at the time. But who you are as a person can cause quite a response, regardless of those around: take the holocaust. Thousands conformed to the powers that were. But few stood up for the right, hiding Jews and others because in their heart, they knew what was right.
    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." – Edmund Burke.
    Crowd helps. But character is gold and will empathize and help whether it's popular or not.
    Crisis does not form character: it reveals it.

  36. Firts something seemed so bad in this video, I instantly wanted to give a dislike and to go to a nother video. But when I saw the message and now I added to my USEFUL playlist! Thank you

  37. We're social creatures. Behaving this way in a group is probably an instinct that prevented people from making a stupid decision. I'm thinking of the Darwin Awards.

    Standard expected things people do in a group:
    1. feel out the new social environment.
    2. make a personal choice.

    The more people, the more that needs to be felt out before acting. In part due to punishment or possible stigma associated with deviating from the norm. Honestly, I think the best thing to take away from this is more people need to get uncomfortable and take that "leader" role. Not everyone, just more people. I would love to see this test done with personality types involved as a variable.

  38. I wouldn't have offered to help cause I legit have no idea how to put up a tent. If I don't know how to do something, I'm not going to offer to help. I'll probably ask if anyone around me knows how to do it though and get you help from someone else

  39. why wouldnt all the participants be unaware? wouldnt that actually prove or disprove your point? seems this experiment is trying to direct the outcome more than observe the results. so seems they are pushing an agenda instead of honestly researching this topic

  40. i think this is what the finale of Battlestar Galactica was about, splitting the survivors into many small & distanced groups, to keep people connected & to have "concentrated responsibility" for as long as possible.

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  42. I know a lady with debilitating social anxiety. When she notices someone needing help. She literally drops everything, and runs to help them. I have to stay behind to pick up her handbag, and anything else she drops.

  43. At first I thought the whole group was tested.
    I love it that actually only ONE SINGLE person within the group is and it's so obvious who it is. 😀

  44. Does anyone else remember, in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide books, there was a spaceship that had a cloaking device – it was invisible. The cloaking device was a Somebody Else's Problem Field. Yeah, it happens. But I think in this case maybe people didn't want to upstage the presenter or embarrass him. I don't think it'd take me 8 minutes or something to step in and help but probably 2 minutes anyway, because I wouldn't want the presenter to feel like they weren't competent or make him look incompetent in the eyes of the other participants.

  45. I'm tired of poor American English!! There is no such thing as "quicker", there's only the word "faster".
    You can be fast or faster and you can also be quick, however, you cannot be " quicker"! No such thing. Please stop it!!!

    I've noticed American's also say "you did good". There's no such thing as this. The correct phrase is " you did well".
    I'm tired of rubbish English and I blame their academic systems for endorsing poor grammar generation after generation.

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  47. and of course when i say i know japanese i can also read KANJi people who don't know how amazing anime is are truly TRULY… which is why i learned enough japanese however i am not even halfway on finishing up my reading or writing skillz but i AM getting there

  48. Empathy is overrated. Empathy doesn't make you right not does it make the actions take based on those feelings right, for example empathy for a person who is killed can lead someone to take their rage out on a person regardless of whether they are responsible, making them blind to facts.

  49. It's interesting that the people who were willing to finally jump in and help were seated dead center in between everyone else. I wonder if that position just puts more pressure on a person to assume responsibility because their decision to abandon the situation would be more noticeable by everyone else.

  50. I am glad I am not a part of the bystander effect. No-matter what the environment is [in a classroom, where a teacher needs assistance -to out on the street with a stranger]. I have a very strong part of me that automatically reacts to needing to help someone who appears to be struggling, a bit of help needed for a moment of my time, or help someone in danger.. no-matter what little to great need it may be.

  51. I only knew of this before viewing the video because I had First Aid training, in which this effect is often discussed at some length. Later, when I got my CNA certification, I noticed it was often discussed again. EVEN AMONG HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, people generally think the more of a crowd there is, the more likely someone ELSE is to be more qualified. Don't wait to figure it out, start CPR until someone announces a qualification better than yours. On the other hand, ask people NOT to help, and watch the level of squirm rise to epic levels. This video demonstrates that really well.

    That said, you completely left out the LAB COAT effect. You appeared to be someone in authority. Asking to help you with bystanders present might've offended you. TAKE OFF THE COAT AND TRY AGAIN!

    2:30 cracked me up. Dude is literally recording for YouTube.

  52. I'm sorry I'm not sure I understood. They were all in on it but one woman? Or only one woman was in on it? He says "everyone but one person wasn't in on it." Double negative. What does that mean?

  53. This experiment is pretty blown. It's totally normal for the people not to help. I mean you said you wanted to present something. It's totally logical for them to think "oh, i shouldn't help, this is the presentation, i shouldn't intervene" does anybody agree? This experiment didn't use the right method in portraying this effect. The situation of the experiment wasn't correct, so to speak

  54. In short, there aren’t enough Veronica Christophers. I guarantee I’d be the first to offer to assist- especially in a room of a zillion people. I literally stand alone quite often. It used to bum me out but now it empowers me. 💕

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