Definition of Bystander Effect: Background, Process & Causes

Definition of Bystander Effect – Hi, Sinaumeds, this time we will discuss a phenomenon that we often encounter. Have you ever seen an accident where many people gathered, but only a few were involved in helping? If you have ever seen this kind of incident, then this phenomenon is also called the Bystander effect . Wow, what is the Bystander effect ? Briefly Bystander effectcan be interpreted as a phenomenon of social psychological tendencies that are reluctant to help when in an emergency, but there are many other people around them. The more other people are found, the less the presence of many other people helps someone in an emergency situation. Of course, this makes us confused about what attitude we should choose, Sinaumeds. So, to make it clearer, let’s look at the explanation below!

Definition of bystander effect

The term bystander effect is taken from English. Bystander means observer, while effect means effect. Thus, the meaning of the bystander effect is the effect of the observer.

Meanwhile, in terminology, the bystander effect can be interpreted as a phenomenon in social psychology when a person is experiencing difficulties so he needs help but there is no one to help him. People who know the difficulty just observe and do nothing. They think there are still other people who will help people who are in trouble.

However, the people who were nearby had the same thought. They both assumed that someone else would help him. As a result, each person hopes that someone other than himself will provide assistance to people who are in trouble.

The bystander effect shows that the presence of other people can prevent someone from helping others who are in trouble. Research on this says that the presence of other people seems to manipulate the situation so that someone else will help. Unfortunately this phenomenon always occurs in every era and is passed on to the next generation.

Background Bystander Effect Occurs

The bystander effect is often referred to as the bystander effect. The bystander effect was first introduced by a social psychologist named Bib Latane and John Darley. These two psychologists conducted research on a major case in the United States of a murder.

The murder case occurred to a woman whose name was Kitty Genovese. This incident occurred approximately in 1964 ago. Just then, Kitty finished doing her work and was about to go home.

At midnight that night, he walked up to the middle of the road to meet several groups of criminals. Kitty is attacked and harassed by a group of thugs. He could not move and do anything in that situation.

Surprisingly, the tragedy was witnessed by 38 people around him. However, few have the empathy to help Kitty. Meanwhile, the criminals had previously pointed at Kitty and stabbed her with a knife, until she was killed.

Two weeks after Kitty’s death, the New York Times reported that no one dared to help Kitty during the incident. Even though many people have seen it. Therefore, this case became the basis for the birth of the term bystander effect .

Then a lot of research was conducted to reveal the attitudes of individuals who are classified as not empathetic. The cases that occur are used as material by psychologists to create a definite theory of the phenomena that occur. So that everyone believes that there is a bystander effect phenomenon in the midst of social life.

Occurrence Process

A scientific journal entitled From empathy to apathy: The bystander effect revisited explains that there are five processes bystander effect occurs . The five processes are the existence of an emergency, capturing individual attention, evaluating whether the situation is worthy of being called an emergency, deciding responsibility and confidence in one’s own competence, and finally making a decision to help or not.

Influencing Factors

If you look at it from an outsider’s point of view, maybe you will judge how selfish people are who are reluctant to help. But be aware, it could happen around you. Bystander effect can occur because there are several factors that influence it, namely as follows:

1. Internal Factors (Within)

a. Feelings or Moods

Feelings can be positive feelings and negative feelings. Positive feelings can encourage a person to establish good communication with others. People who are filled with positive feelings find it easier to help others who are in trouble.

Meanwhile, someone who is overwhelmed by negative feelings tends to have inconsistent behavior. According to research conducted by Duane Theodore Wegener and Richard E. Pretty, negative feelings towards someone tend to increase the bystander effect in him. Someone who is having negative feelings is more focused on the problem he is facing.

Thus, negative feelings or bad moods can reduce a person’s tendency to provide help. He is more withdrawn from prosocial activities. Therefore, it is important for you to keep your life filled with positive feelings more.

However, related to the tendency to help others, not all individuals feel the negative impact of bad mood . In some people, they actually have a tendency to feel better by helping people who are in trouble. When viewed from this perspective, bad mood actually has a positive impact.

b. Character

Several studies have revealed that there is a relationship between a person’s innate character and the tendency to help others who are in trouble. Usually people who are forgiving and generous tend to be more easily moved to help others. So it’s not surprising if you have friends who easily step in when someone is having trouble.

c. Religion

Deep belief in God Almighty encourages a person to do good and stay away from bad deeds. Faith leads a person to do good so that he gets a reward in the form of a reward and this motivates followers of religion. Good deeds can be done vertically, namely directly to Him, or horizontally, to His fellow creatures.

One of the goodness that is done horizontally is to help people who are experiencing difficulties. This has been studied by George Horace Gallup with objects of people who are in the United States. In this study, it can be concluded that religion has a significant influence.

He found that 12% of US citizens are devout in carrying out their religious teachings. Of these, 45% of them are active in helping social work. Meanwhile, only 22% of those who are not religiously devout participate in social work.

d. Gender

In their scientific writing, Sarwono and Meinarno stated that Deaux, Dane, and Wrightsman had conducted research that discussed the relationship between a person’s gender and the willingness to help others. In that study, it was stated that men tend to be more willing to be involved in helping activities in emergency conditions that are considered dangerous.

Meanwhile, the role of women in helping cannot be underestimated. Even though in percentage it is easier for men to provide help, women usually provide assistance on the side that is rarely touched by men. Women are more helpful in terms of emotions, nurturing, caring, and affection.

e. Age

Even though there is a saying that aging is a certainty, adulthood is a choice, in general age influences a person’s tendency to help others. Increasing age makes it easier for humans to accept social norms that apply in society without much protest. This shows a positive correlation between age and willingness to help others.

2. External Factors (Outside Yourself)

Apart from internal factors that come from oneself, several other factors may come due to external factors. The following are external factors that can affect the bystander effect :

a. Distributed Responsibility

When you are in the middle of a large crowd of people, you might think that there are many people who will help people who are in a state of danger. These thoughts and feelings arise because of the responsibilities of many people around them. This makes the responsibility spread to many people.

It would be a different story if you were alone somewhere. At the same time, there was someone who was in a state of danger. The responsibility to help is only centered on you because no one else. Like it or not, you have to help that person.

b. Similarity

Not infrequently the similarity between the helper and the person being helped gives a fairly strong influence. Similarities in race, religion, ethnicity, hobbies, groups, and others can encourage someone to help. This is due to a sense of shared fate because of the resemblance between the two parties.

c. Fear of Being Judged

Feelings of fear can be interpreted as a person’s desire to conform to the social norms prevailing in society. It’s just that, on the other hand, there is a feeling of fear of being judged by others as having done something wrong, stupid, or embarrassing. In addition, the possibility of misinterpretation from the general public can reduce the willingness to help others.

d. Time Urge

People who are relaxed generally have quite a lot of time. Therefore, they find it easier to help others who need help. Conversely, busy people tend to be in a hurry and don’t have time to help others.

e. Hazard Level in an Emergency

Several studies state that emergencies reduce the number of bystander effects . The willingness to help others usually fulfills the aspect of the victim really needing help and the victim deserves the help needed. Emergencies can reduce ambiguity.

Causes of the Bystander Effect

A phenomenon that occurs allows for a cause behind it. As with the bystander effect phenomenon , of course there are several related underlying causes. Following are the three main causes of the bystander effect quoted from the book Social Psychology Eighth Edition 2018, by Michael and Graham Vaughan:

1. Ignorance of what one should do

The large number of people in an emergency situation makes individuals confused about what to do. This is because the bystander effect that occurs results in the thought that the responsibility for helping is delegated to others. Because many people are in that situation, it is different if the individual is alone, the spontaneous response to help is very fast because he knows that only he can help.

2. Social Blunders

Social blunders are related to one’s self-image. The connection with the bystander effect itself is that someone is reluctant to provide help because they are afraid of being wrong and this is related to self-image in front of many people. Instead of being ashamed and afraid of doing something wrong, the individual chooses not to respond to any events around him even though it is an emergency.

3. Social Influence

When someone chooses not to help, it will affect the psychology of other people. This causes other people to also not help and take any action if an emergency situation occurs. In addition, this person’s influence arises because of the condition of observing each other.

Behavior Bystander Effect in Big City

Bystander effect can be experienced by anyone, anywhere, and anytime. Social psychology states that a person’s tendency to help others will be greater if there are no other people around. Conversely, if there are many people around him, people’s tendency to help others will decrease.

Experiments conducted by John M. Darley and Bibb Latane showed that if there was only one person at the scene of a hazard, the probability of that person helping another person was 85%. This is because he is the only person who has the responsibility to help. There was no one else he could put the responsibility on.

On the other hand, if there are many people at the scene of the hazard, the probability of people helping is only 31%. Of course this percentage is very far from the previous case. The majority of witnesses feel anxiety, but the real action they get is few, even almost non-existent.


After reading the series of explanations above, we can conclude that the bystander effect is a phenomenon in which a person is reluctant to care and help others in need. This happens because the individual thinks there are still many people who are in that situation who can help. This situation is not right, when everyone has such thoughts, so that there is no one to help someone in need.

In addition, the bystander effect is a psychological problem that occurs in individuals. This is very contrary to the concept of individual empathy as a social being. Then if this phenomenon continues, it will cause anti-social attitudes that grow in society.

Of course we don’t want that to happen, OK, Sinaumeds. Because anti-social attitudes make the order in social life disappear. In addition, people will tend to live in individuality and feel in control of everything related to themselves or selfish.

For this reason, there is a need for social awareness to minimize the phenomenon of the bystander effect So, to make it even clearer, Sinaumeds can also read books related to bystander effects at Sinaumedia, you know. Sinaumedia will continue to maintain the spirit to become #Friends Without Borders by presenting the best books for all of you.