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How Often Will Bystanders Help Strangers in Need? - CityLab



It’s one of the most enduring urban myths of all: If you get in trouble, don’t count on anyone nearby to help. Research dating back to the late 1960s documents how the great majority of people who witness crimes or violent behavior refuse to intervene.

Psychologists dubbed this non-response as the “bystander effect”—a phenomenon which has been replicated in scores of subsequent psychological studies. The “bystander effect” holds that the reason people don’t intervene is because we look to one another. The presence of many bystanders diffuses our own sense of personal responsibility, leading people to essentially do nothing and wait for someone else to jump in.
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The study finds that in nine out of 10 incidents, at least one bystander intervened, with an average of 3.8 interveners. There was also no significant difference across the three countries and cities, even though they differ greatly in levels of crime and violence.

Instead of more bystanders creating an immobilizing “bystander effect,” the study actually found the more bystanders there were, the more likely it was that at least someone would intervene to help.