Moncton photographer Maurice Henri was taking photos early in the evening last week when he says he was attacked by a man who wanted to steal his camera.
“There was a lot of people around and I was yelling, ‘somebody call 911, I’m being attacked.’
According to a well-supported theory in the world of psychology, people are less likely to come to the aid of a stranger if there are a lot of other people around. It’s known as the ‘bystander effect.’
“If you come across an emergency situation where there’s a large crowd around or at least some other people, you probably are going to feel less responsible to do something because you’ll think, ‘well, there’s a lot of people here, somebody else will help,'” University of Calgary psychology professor Cara MacInnis explains.
The theory has been supported by decades of laboratory research, but when a group of European researchers decided to look at what happened in the real world, they saw that things were different.
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A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement and Lancaster University analyzed CCTV footage of more than 200 arguments and assaults captured in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Lancaster, UK, and Cape Town, South Africa.
“We found that in nine out of 10 conflicts, a bystander would take an active role,” said Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard, a University of Copenhagen researcher who spoke to Global News from Amsterdam.
“People were trying to deescalate the conflict; they were pushing themselves between the conflict parties,” said Lindegaard.
“We were quite surprised because we were obviously brought up with this myth about passive bystanders in public.”
The research also found that victims were more likely to receive help if there was a large number of bystanders around.
MacInnis calls the findings interesting, but doesn’t believe scientists should count the bystander effect theory out just yet.
“The results are actually a little bit more consistent with the bystander effect than they appear,” she says.
“The classic bystander effect studies are usually looking at the probability of one single person helping, whereas this study is looking at the probability of people getting help.
“As a group size increases, the likelihood of the person getting help increases, but the probably of any single person getting help decreases — which is consistent with the bystander effect studies.”
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