A few years ago now, a lady was coming home from her late night job, when she was suddenly attacked by a knife-wielding maniac and stabbed multiple times. She lived in a built up area, with apartment buildings all round.
Apparently, lights were going on all over the place, but not one person called the police nor made any attempt to help her. It wasn’t as though people didn’t hear her. She screamed and screamed, but no-one did anything. When the police finally arrived, she was dead.
What would you do? Pretend nothing’s happening, or at least call the police. One of the names under which this sort of behaviour falls is ‘bystander apathy’. You see something wrong happening, but you simply stand there and don’t do a thing about it.
Suppose you see someone trip and fall heavily in the street. Would you go to their aid? Or, because no-one else is bothering to help them, would you simply walk on?
An experiment was carried out by two psychologists not so long ago, directly linked to this ‘bystander apathy’. They gathered a group of students, and told them they were conducting a study on life at the university. One student had to sit alone in a room and talk into a microphone for two minutes about their experiences at university.
Now, this was happening in a number of rooms, but all the voices were pre-recorded However, the ‘subject’ didn’t know that these stories were pre-recorded and merely thought they were the voices of other students taking part in the study. Now remember that in truth there was only one student. All the other voices were pre-recorded, but this one student thought there were at least another half a dozen students.
The one ‘live’ student listened to voice after voice, each one lasting for two minutes. One voice was from a ‘student’ who said he suffered from epilepsy. He carried on for about thirty seconds, then suddenly his voice began to become panicky.
“Oh my God, I’m having a seizure. Someone please help,” etc. The one student, thinking there were a number of others in the same experiment, made no effort to help. He was anxious, yes, but didn’t help.
On the other hand, a similar experiment in which the student knew he was the only one, did help. In fact, 85% of those in that situation helped, because they thought there was no-one else. It’s most interesting. There is most definitely not safety in numbers.
If you have a fall and there are only one or perhaps two people around, you stand a far better chance of help than if you find yourself surrounded by people.
The moral seems to be;don’t fall in the middle of a crowd!