Understanding the bystander effect
If you had been in the Montreal Métro station when an inebriated man staggered into an oncoming train, smashing his head and falling onto the platform - what would you have done? Would you have intervened? Called 911?
The man was Radil Hebrich, a 59-yr-old Algerian architect who'd come on hard times and was homeless. His body lay on the platform for sixteen minutes before any help arrived. He died hours later, with a deep cut to his head, fractured skull and fractured vertebrae.
This January, a homeless man in his fifties was found dead in a glass bus shelter at one of Toronto's busiest downtown corners. He had frozen to death.
And in Washington, DC, a 30-year-old employee at a Lululemon clothing store died when her co-worker stabbed her hundreds of times. The staff in a store next door heard the attack going on through a wall and did not call police.
These are chilling examples of what is known as the bystander effect -- a psychological term which describes why people in a crowd are less likely to react or become involved when someone is in trouble.
Michael speaks with three experts on the troubling question of why people in crowds just watch, as someone suffers or even dies right in front of them.
Theresa Bianco wrote an op-ed piece in the Montreal Gazette, after the coroner's report on the death of Mr. Hebrich was released. She looked at ways people could respond when faced with such a crisis. Professor Bianco teaches psychology at Concordia University.
Kristen Monroe is the author/editor of more than 16 books and 100 articles. Her latest book, A Darkling Plain: Stories of Conflict and Humanity during War", has just been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She is Chancellor's Professor at the University of California at Irvine, Director of the UCI Ethics Center and current president of the Women's Caucus for Political Science.
Ervin Staub is Founding Director of the doctoral program in the Psychology of Peace and Violence at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is the author of the award-winning book, Overcoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict and Terrorism. His latest book, The Roots of Goodness and Resistance to Evil: Inclusive Caring, Moral Courage, Altruism Born of Suffering, Active Bystandership and Heroism will be published this month.