Contrary to most people’s opinion, emergency situations of varying types are not only the norm in today’s society, they tend to happen frequently and almost daily. Whether it’s someone in medical distress or someone being attacked or harmed, it happens far more than any of us care to consider.
Although I would be far from considered the type of person to intentionally install fear in people, my field of work has given me a particularly subjective look at this type of phenomenon. And what’s worse is that if the average person knew just how much chaos takes place in their “quiet little town”, they would likely think twice about going out and/or locking their doors.
But before I get too dark and morbid, what I’m talking about is the propensity people seem to have to ignore something happening right in front of them. What I’m referring to, is a phenomenon known as the Bystander Effect.
There was a case that took place where a New York City resident was attacked and killed outside her apartment complex in 1964. There were apparently dozens of witnesses who saw the attack taking place and heard the woman crying out for help, but no one intervened despite witnessing the incident. Once the attack was over someone phoned police, who responded within two minutes.
Imagine if this was you. You’re screaming for help and despite all these people watching, no one steps in to help. It’s actually an effect that’s been documented and studied by a number of sources. I’m sure some of you may recall an incident in the early 90’s where a two-year old boy was dragged away against his will by two older boys, who subsequently killed the toddler.
Although there are a number of common sense reasons why any given person may not want to get involved in an emergent situation, the need and importance of intervening is critical. Let’s back up to that 1964 attack I mentioned earlier. That attack is said to have lasted for over 30 minutes while people watched. If someone had phoned the police right when they saw it happening, the police likely would have arrived on scene in two minutes and the victim’s life would be spared.
The biggest problem, if we examine it from today’s perspective, is that most people are more preoccupied with whipping out their cell phone to film the incident rather than help. And there’s an after-effect to the Bystander Effect known as a “diffusion of responsibility”. This is a concept that explains that the larger the crowd of onlookers, the less likely a single person will lend aid. this is because there is a tendency to believe that someone else will step in and that you won’t need to.
I’m reminded of the multiple occasions where I’ve received a call from someone stating that there was a vehicle off the road along a major highway. I’d ask the caller if there were any injuries or casualties. That question would always be met with “I don’t know, I didn’t stop…” When asked why they didn’t stop, I’d either be told that it wasn’t their problem or that it was “my job.”
I asked this question earlier on, but imagine if this was you. Wouldn’t you want someone to help? Providing aid certainly is everyone’s responsibility. If you come across something, step in and help. And if you feel the need to whip out your cell phone, take the time to dial 911. You may be saving someone’s life. ☯