There was a very famous social psychology experiment conducted by John Darley and Bibb Latané. In the experiment, each participant (university students) was put into a room on his/ her own and they were told that they would then communicate with other participants through microphones and speakers about their personal problems. In reality, each participant will hear a pre-recorded voice recording. One of the pre-recorded voice recording was an epileptic student and in the middle of the recording, the student said that he was having a seizure. The participants could not see that he was having a seizure but they could hear that he was having one. There are two groups – one group was told that this conservation was one-to-one while the other was told that this conversation was many-to-one before the session. Unsurprisingly, 85 % of the participants in the first group called for help and only 31% of the participants in the second group called for help. These findings support the bystander effect – when people know that they are not the only one who can help the person, they simply tend not to help.
Recently, I hung out with K on a weekday evening on the huge stairs at Star Vista and we saw a little girl (~2 years old) who was climbing up the huge stairs, crying and shouting one word – Mummy.
We were rather concerned as we thought that the little girl could be lost. So we decided to go and help. Funnily, there were many people who were seated at the stairs and they simply watched. It was one thing not to care but it was another to watch and do nothing. That is a pretty big problem in the society. People are afraid of doing the wrong thing so people tend to “watch and see”. Sometimes I think there is no safety in numbers.
P.S. In the end, the mother found the little girl.