More Likely To Help When…

guide-423824_1280Yesterday I was reading an interesting fact about what is called “bystander intervention.” Certain experiments were conducted by social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latane in which they set up situations that seemed like emergencies, e.g. someone fainting in the subway etc.

They observed something quite interesting. The likelihood of someone offering help to the “victim” depended on the presence of others in the particular context. If people thought they were the only ones witnessing the incident, they usually extended their help. If there was another person around, they were less likely to help, and if there were lots of people around it was unlikely they would offer any help at all.

It really got me thinking. Does a collective perception make us lose our sense of individual responsibility towards one another, or does it enhance it? Do we have to have a sense of the individual to awaken a sense of individual responsibility? Can we take collective responsibility for something without a sense of individuality? Still pondering on all this.

Image – courtesy Pixabay

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About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
This entry was posted in collectivity and individuality, Identity, Life, Relationships and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to More Likely To Help When…

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Aw Don, you’re making me think on Friday morning. My head hurts a little as I consider this. I’m trying to think of the times that I’ve helped people or offered to help. In most cases, I was the only one around, which I think just heightens the sense of need (if I don’t help, who will?) When there’s a crowd, I often wonder if I’m the best qualified, but I will pay attention and help if I think I might be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don says:

      Interesting point Dan where you say that being the only one around seems to heighten the sense of need. I sometimes find myself thinking, “someone else will do it” when there are others around. Then it’s a bit of a battle between the tug of doing something myself and the thought that somebody else will do it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Rhonda says:

    There was (maybe still is) a program here called “What would you do?” in which hidden cameras captured emergency or human interest situations and the response, if any, from the public around them. Examples would be ‘actors’ portraying a handicapped person struggling with and/or falling out of a wheelchair, or a purse snatcher grabbing a woman’s purse, or standing in a grocery line when the person checking out realizes they have no money…and much much more. It was a candid view of us as people, and guess what? The more people around, the longer it took for someone to jump in. The less, the more instantaneous the outreach.

    The examples I’ve given were not life threatening, but in episodes where someone were choking, or someone appears to be having a heart attack, or one where a person paying more attention to a cell phone than where she was going, was pulled back by a bystander an instant before she would have been squashed by oncoming traffic, I saw there was very little difference in the response times…group or individual. Which gives me hope that we do feel a sense of individual accountability/responsibility when it matters.

    Great post

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don says:

      I find your comment, “The more people around, the longer it took for someone to jump in. The less, the more instantaneous the outreach” very interesting Rhonda. I wonder if what Dan said about the heightened sense of need when fewer people are around, is not relevant. But I suppose one can also see the crowd as an escape from doing something. I like what you say about those immediate responses you describe. Thanks for a marvellous comment, Rhonda.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post and does raise some interesting questions. Like Dan in his response — I need to ponder this!

    My gut response was — I wonder if when we’re in a group, we’re also conscious of ‘what will other’s think if I rush in’ thinking — if I rush in will they think I think I’m better than them, a drama hog, pushy? What if I rush in and can’t help and make a fool of myself and as Dan suggested — what if there’s someone more capable than me in the crowd?

    I think you have given me a great thought-provoker and I thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don says:

      Yes, I think you’re right Louise. I’m sure that’s also a dynamic that plays itself out. Strange how our thoughts can go immediately to ourselves, even in a situation where others need our assistance. I like those spontaneous responses Rhonda describes. They seem to be void of all that stuff. It’s just a quick natural reaching out. Great comment Louise.Thank you.

      Like

  4. nrhatch says:

    I’ve seen similar experiments where it depended on the appearance of the person in distress ~ people rushed to help well-dressed attractive actors who stumbled . . . but not the same actors dressed as “homeless people” holding a brown bag that looked like it might contain an “adult beverage.”

    And other experiments when it depended on recency ~ whether bystanders saw the fall as it occurred vs. coming across someone who might be “sleeping it off” on the pavement.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don says:

      It just goes to show Nancy how many other factors also play a role in all of this. I wonder if it is possible to reach a point in one’s perceptions where none of this has any impact on our responses – we just do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. April says:

    Very interesting thoughts to ponder. I know what I believe I would do but if the situation arises what would I do?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. calvin says:

    Fifty shades of ‘sounds from an empty bottle’. And am reading comments from your readers as they come forth. Am certain you will have ‘plenty’.

    Don’t take this the wrong way, and not to take away from your insightful and thought provoking post, but here is a joke; old as it maybe.

    Researchers from the University of Mind Matters, conducted an experiment on a desert highway at night. On one stretch of unlit asphalt a snake was placed across the road. On another stretch, a lawyer was placed.

    Care to speculate as to what their research showed?

    Skid marks in front of the snake.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Don says:

      I would love to hear Nancy’s response to this. Are you there Nancy?

      Liked by 1 person

      • nrhatch says:

        What do you call 400 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?
        A good start.

        How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?
        His lips are moving.

        How can you tell the difference between a dead snake and a dead lawyer lying in the road?
        There are skid marks in front of the snake.

        Why are lawyer’s graves dug to 20 feet rather than the traditional 6 feet?
        Because deep down, lawyers are really good.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Don says:

        For you Calvin, especially the last line. πŸ™‚

        Like

      • calvin says:

        Since I use a back door wordpress, and cannot do likes, Ill just type my ‘like’ here. LIKE!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hariod Brawn says:

    Perhaps our empathic mechanisms diminish in a crowd Don? One aspect of empathy is a so-called ’emotional contagion’, in which we unconsciously mimic the mannerisms of others – an example being yawning as soon as we see another yawning. Primates have advanced empathic qualities which operate beneath the level of consciousness – i.e. intuitively – although in a crowd situation the potential for ‘noise’ (not audible sound, but differing visual cues) being unconsciously apprehended increases, so corrupting the transmission of what would otherwise prove to be empathic cues. This may play some part in the phenomenon you describe perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don says:

      I find that extremely interesting Hariod – the crowd creating “noise” which corrupts the transmission of empathic cues. What I warm to is the fact that empathy is always there, but can become corrupted. There’s a kind of hope in that.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Mary says:

    Wow a lot to think about Don. I guess it might depend on the situation – my natural inclination is to assist where I could, but if there are other folks already lending a hand I may back away. Again depends, because my personality is I would feel a sense of responsibility to assist someone.

    Like

    • Don says:

      Thanks Mary. I’m sure there are others who would identify with your sentiments. I think deep down most people, like yourself, want to help – you just do it. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Val Boyko says:

    So … There is interference depending on the circumstances, external environment and the group or people around you.
    Acknowledge that (which takes awareness of it)
    And then?
    Do the right thing for you and your inner values.
    Do what feels so right in the core of your being.
    Let go of the rationalization and the “what if “disposition of the ego mind.
    Just do what is right for you as a human being seeing an other hurting or in peril.
    THAT is what matters and will change the world.
    I’ll step off my soapbox now and take a long deep breath….
    Get out of our heads and listen to our heart and soul… And yes body.
    Honestly – haven’t we been in our head too long….
    Namaste

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don says:

      You sound pretty angry Val. You’re obviously feeling very passionate about how you feel. I warm to that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Val Boyko says:

        I’m not angry Don – but it did touch on something I feel strongly about. I guess it was time to give it a voice!
        Thank you ❀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don says:

        Thank you Val. I really value what you have shared and I’m so glad you felt free to voice it. May I just share something of what I feel by
        responding to your comment.

        Maybe I don’t know enough, Val, but I tend to struggle with statements like, “Get out of your heads and listen to your heart and soul.” That’s like asking me to get rid of my stomach or one of my legs or some other part which is part of my very essence as a human being. I feel, and this is just me, that statements like these will always only be partly true because by their very nature they separate and tear apart and convey a form of dualism. For me intellect and heart have to go together. I cannot hold to the kind of dualism that speaks of them in the language of separation. I believe firmly that our inner values are not only fueled by our hearts but by our intellects as well. Heart and head will always work together and compliment one another. Heart without intellect is all over the place and always runs the risk of being wishy-washy, whereas, intellect with no heart simply becomes cold, loveless and calculating.I believe heart and intellect are deeply embedded in Soul and that we need to live in both. Yes, I do believe that intellect took over and suppressed the heart, but we dare not make the same mistake the other way around. I think the two working together in a constructive and loving harmony will ultimately change the world, not the one without the other.

        Really appreciate this kind of engagement, Val. Thank you.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Val Boyko says:

        Connecting heart to intellect is the piece that most peeps miss. They believe in their intellect. And I have found that many others are so disconnected with their body as well. We human units have our own system of connectivity … and are part of a much bigger one. Its time to let go if thinking as being the truth and open up to new possibilities from our being and inner wisdom.
        We are agreeing vehemently … And supporting a more wholistic and connected way of being Don.
        Lets us spread the word. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don says:

        I’m with you Val.

        Like

  10. Great responses to your post Don. On the way home from work a few weeks ago, I saw a young man unconscious on the road, I immeditately gathered he had been hit by a car or pushed off his motorbike, but as I drove past there were at least 8 people standing around him helping.

    I realised another person was not needed, however it is an interesting debate to address. If he was on his own, I would have immediately stopped and assisted. I guess each situation should be assessed differently, I don’t feel bad for not stopping when I knew he was being helped and the ambulance was on its way.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Very interesting question, Don!
    As teachers, my husband and I had to keep current credentials in first aid–believe it or not, since we taught high school, that also included training in emergency child birth!–so when we were out at a restaurant or a movie or in an airport lobby, etc., we were often the first to jump in and help. Hmm…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don says:

      I’m sure Marylin when you have that kind of skill you can intervene with confidence and know-how and become an extremely effective influence in healing. I think that’s wonderful. πŸ™‚

      Like

  12. Interesting study. I think the more people there are the more likely you are waiting for or expect someone else to step up. Save you the trouble. When you are alone, you see there is no one else and so it is the aloneness that causes you to act. We are taught more to be followers than leaders. I think the aloneness forces us out of that model of passivity, where as the behavior in a group setting is sort of the norm. Wait for someone to give direction or take action and you’ll follow.

    Like

    • Don says:

      I think there is so much truth in what you say Noelle. I agree with your description of being followers more than leaders. I suppose we can’t all be leaders, but we’ve all got to learn what it means to take the initiative. Thanks for your comment Noelle.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. A fascinating observation that I feel to be true. I am reading this after the incident on the French train when three Americans took down a potential terrorist and were helped by one British man and one Frenchman. Perhaps some people are made to be helpers and doers and others to be bystanders.

    Like

  14. Don says:

    I think you’re right. It probably does have much to do with disposition. πŸ™‚

    Like

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