Stand by and watch syndrome

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As people who are on my Facebook group know, I’m fairly active on social media. It can be a great way to connect with people in your field of interest, get chatting and build connections. It can also be a great way to get your content out there such as the articles I write on this blog. However, more and more frequently I’m seeing videos and posts taken on mobile phones of people being attacked, beaten up and even sometimes stabbed and so the questions have to be asked of why is it being filmed and why aren’t people helping?

I think most of us would like to think that if we saw someone getting beaten up or mugged, our first instict wouldn’t be to pull out our mobile phones and film it, but either to inject ourselves or signal for help either in the form of finding police, shouting to attract more attention, or firing up the bat signal. However, psychology suggests that this is not always the case and human beings will not always help another human in trouble, it’s all dependent on the circumstances they are placed under. Basically studies have shown that even the most apparently norman human being can become capable of this if presented with the right triggers.

So let’s look at the `bystander effect`. Ask yourself, if you were walking through town late at night, heard a scream and some struggling and saw a teenage girl in distress, would you help? Now ask yourself the same question but instead of being on your own, you’re with a group of 10 friends. Would you be more or less willing to help?

In 1964 a woman was murdered and newspapers reported that 38 people had heard or seen the attack and done nothing. 38. Two psychologists, Darley and Latane wanted to know if the face these people were in a group played a role in their unwillingness to help. The psychologists invited people to take part in a discussion over intercom. During the conversation, one of the discussion participants would fake a seizure which could be heard through the speakers. When the partipant believed they were the only ones speaking to the individual who had the fake seizure, they rushed to get help. However, when the participant believed there were four others involved in the conversation, only 31% went to help, the rest assuming someone else would. This study has been recreated numerous times leading to the term `The Bystander Effect` whereby

Individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present

We take our cues from others not acting or tell ourselves someone else will do it. So how does this apply in terms of martial arts or self defence? Do we have a higher moral duty to interject if we see or hear something? Would we interject? Martial arts schools offer self defence training as a marketing tool – no-one wants to feel less safe and there is an instinct for us to survive and protect ourselves. We’ve spoken before about how often, dojo martial arts do not translate well into real world violence, but what about the discipline, etiquette, courage and general decency we are also taught in the martial arts? Would these traits help someone stand out from the crowd and have the confidence to speak up and act?

It certainly wouldnt hurt in my opinion.

It’s been said that knowledge is power and even being aware of the bystander effect can make people think twice and act when perhaps before they would have sat back and waited for someone else. As martial artists and self defence enthusiasts, we seek knowledge on keeping ourselves safe, but how many of us think about keeping others safe as well? Would we be the one to stand up and take action rather than sit back and let the bystander effect take place?

I hope so!