Be a Lifesaver: What is bystander effect and how do you overcome it?

Robie de Guzman
(FILE) Bystanders hold on to a jeepney as rescuers pull out a woman during an accident in Manila, Philippines, 07 June 2019. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO

If you witnessed an emergency situation happening before your eyes, would you immediately leap into action to help someone in trouble?

While many would likely answer this question with a resounding “yes,” psychological experts say that deciding on whether to intervene or not in such situation might depend on the number of people present.

This conundrum is called the bystander effect.

It refers to the social phenomenon that occurs when individuals fail to intervene or help those in need because of the presence of other people.

During emergency, experts say, observers are more likely to take action if there are few or no other witnesses present. In many cases, people who are part of a large crowd feel that since there are others around, someone would step up and take action.

According to psychological experts, there are two major factors that contribute to the bystander effect.

First is the diffusion of responsibility created by the presence of other people. Social psychology research show that when in a crowd, a person does not feel as much pressure to take an action since the responsibility is thought to be shared among all those present.

Second is the need to behave in socially acceptable ways. When no one is taking action, individuals often take this as a signal that intervening in a certain situation is not necessary.  Ambiguous situations can also make it difficult to determine if help is truly needed.

So how can you overcome this effect?

Being aware of this tendency helps in breaking the cycle. Staying alert and attuned to the situation, rather than relying on others’ responses can also help you decide how to react.

Learning first aid and other trainings can also make you feel more prepared to help other people and deal with potential emergencies.

One of Lifesaver’s main purposes is to address the bystander effect.

Lifesaver is a program, running both in TV and digital platforms, which offers information on basic first aid response for lay people in times of accidents or emergencies.

It also shares tips on how to prepare for medical emergencies or disasters, be it at home or at work.

The program also pushes for disaster awareness to help the public prepare better.

Lifesaver features rescue operations of UNTV’s emergency and response team where one can learn the basic steps in providing first aid.

Lifesaver is on a mission to educate ordinary people on essential emergency response and disaster preparedness tools by offering viewers easy to understand lessons.

It airs on UNTV every Sunday, from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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