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