Not Your Daddy’s Bystander Effect

Bystander Effect is a phenomenon where…

…individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. (source: Wikipedia)

This sounds kind of nuts, but welcome to being human. The reasons it happens are diffusion of responsibility (if others are around, maybe they’ll help… so maybe you don’t have to) and cohesiveness (if nobody else is jumping to action, maybe that’s the appropriate response…). Public Service Announcement: now that you know about the bystander effect, realize that in many emergency situations, nobody else will help. So you might as well be alone.

Anyway, I think that the bystander effect can be used as a fun metaphor or mental model to talk about some other common experiences people have, in CoZE (comfort-zone expansion) and with procrastination.

Reverse Bystander Effect: when you have to choose between people

Most of my experience with this sort of thing comes from doing social CoZE and Rejection Therapy exercises, but I think it shows up elsewhere too. So say I’m in an airport, and my challenge is to get a stranger to give me a hug. I look around, and there are a lot of strangers. Which means that my thoughts, by default, go something like this:

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I'm Malcolm Ocean.

I'm trying to figure out how humans work so I can help make humanity work. More about me.

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