The Silent Spectator

How many of you have witnessed an accident on the road right in front of your eyes and just moved on? How many of you have peeped into your neighbor’s book in class when you don’t catch a dictated word? While travelling in a bus, how many of you sit in your seat & wait for someone else to get up and give a seat to an old woman who is just aboard?

Well, if you have done any of these things above, you are not the only one my friend. The entire human race is just like you. Read on..

Some students were invited to a lab under the pretext that they were taking part in a discussion about personal problems. They were talking to many unknown people (each with 1 to 4 individuals).

Since the nature of the discussion was sensitive, they were told that the discussion will take place over intercom.

During the discussion, one of the members of the group (to which the participant was talking) suddenly appeared to have an epileptic seizure. They started choking for some duration of time and then there was silence at the other end.


The experimenters observed that some participants made no move to intervene. Also, the more the the number of people in the group, the slower the participant reacted to the situation.

So what is this that makes us not care for the other person? Are we so ignorant? Are we so selfish?

 Psychologists call this as Bystander effect.

One of the first steps in anyone’s decision to help another is the recognition that someone is actually in need of help. Many of us may fail to recognize the emergency of the situation. For example, imagine you are at a swimming pool and you see a child struggling in the water. What would you do? You would first look around to see if anyone else also feels the same as you do. If no one is reacting, you may just conclude that the child might just be playing in the water. Psychologists call this pluralistic ignorance

Lets say we are not like them and we do recognize emergencies. Then, what do we do? Most of us just wait for someone else to take some action while we just watch what happens. This is called Diffusion of responsibility.

Its human nature to play safe and ensure that we don’t fall for unnecessary trouble. So is it right on your part to just stand and watch a child drown in the water when you know you can save the child? Is it ok to watch someone bleed to death from an accident in front of you and go into a shock later due to witnessing the event?

Thats for you to decide, now that you know the “someone else” who was supposed to help out the sufferer may never exist.

Signing off….