Are You a Bystander of the Bystander Effect?

By: Michael Abruzzo

After participating in our Socratic Seminar, I found the idea of the bystander effect very interesting. The bystander effect is the statistic that when there are more bystanders watching a crime, there is a lesser chance that one of them will step in, and when there are less of them viewing, there is a greater chance that one will intervene in the situation. This is thought to happen for two reasons: diffusion of responsibility and pluralistic ignorance.


Diffusion of responsibility is the idea that when there are more people at the scene, each person feels that they have a lesser responsibility to take action than if they were the only one there. Pluralistic ignorance is the belief that if 9 out of 10 people viewing the scene of a crime do nothing, chances are the other 1 person will do the same because he/she will not want to feel alone or the odd one out.


This aspect is fascinating to me because I am a victim of the bystander effect almost everyday in school. If I am confused about something that was just taught by my teacher, and I notice that no one else seems confused or is raising their hand to ask a question, I more often than not will be quiet because I am in fear of being alone. This would go along with the idea of pluralistic ignorance. The bystander effect was interesting to me because I feel that a lot of the world, myself included, fall into this trap. The real life story that we read in ¨The 38 who saw murder and didn’t call the police¨ is an example of this effect, as well, being just one of the many examples in the world of the bystander effect.

Have you ever fallen into the trap of the bystander effect yourself? Please share your own stories and experiences.