About the Bystander Effect
What is The Bystander Effect?
The term bystander effect refers to a scientific phenomenon that states that the greater the number of people that are gathered together, the less likely crowd is to help somebody in distress. If an emergency situation occurs–or in the case of our play, a bullying situation–crowds are less likely to take action to help a victim, than if there are few or no other witnesses.
In James Preller’s Bystander, Eric experiences this effect head on, as he moves to a new school and must work to make new friends and be liked by his peers. Unfortunately, the only friends he makes are bullies and bystanders, though he slowly learns, through each interaction, that separately his friends are very decent people. His challenge is to overcome his own nature to stand by and watch as other characters in the book–including himself–are tormented.
What causes The Bystander Effect?
The Bystander Effect is mainly caused by two things:
- The assumption that someone else will help the victim (“I don’t have to tell a teacher because somebody else will do it.”)
- The desire to be socially accepted among peers (“Everybody thinks Sandra’s a loser, so if I tell that she’s being bullied, I’ll look like a loser.”)
How can we work to prevent The Bystander Effect?
In Bystander, Eric learns his lesson the hard way: in the long run, fitting in is not as important as the safety of others. By speaking out against bullying, you are working to support a healthy community, one where everyone can thrive and exist as themselves, without judgement.
Confronting the Bystander Effect is easy: you just have to be able to recognize the signs! Eric knew that when Hallenback was being attached and teased, it was not right, but did not speak up against it. If you or someone you know is in a similar situation, do not stay quiet. Talk to your friends, your parents, or a teacher. Most often, those in your social group will also feel that something is wrong about the situation.
Being a Bystander might be ok in the short term, but the long term effects of not speaking out about bullying are terrible for the bullied, your social group, and your community. Don’t be a Bystander! Speak out!