The Bystander Effect: Upstander Verses Bystander

Aymes Sarah
5 min readDec 24, 2019

Running into the fire instead of away from it

Image by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

The bystander effect is when several people are present at the time of an emergency, but no one steps in to help the person in need. It is believed that the more people who are present during an emergency, the less likely people are to be proactive and help the victim.

The bystander effect was named by social psychologists, John Darley and Bibb Latane. They began researching the different reactions that people have while witnessing a crime. The first known case of bystanders syndrome inspired them to begin their research on why people in a group can be passive in an emergency.

In 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovese was attacked in Queens, New York. She was raped and murdered while dozens of her neighbors listened and watched the attack take place. The reaction from the media was indignant. People couldn’t understand how this could happen and why so many people would “turn a blind eye” to the vicious attack on Kitty. Darley and Latane were motivated to research this case and come up with reasons why the neighbors didn’t help Kitty. During their research, they coined the term “The Bystander Effect”.¹

In reality, many of us have done this but to a lesser extent. Have you ever driven by a bad car accident and didn’t stop? Many of us have and it is nothing to be ashamed of. There are some occupations that require you to stop and help during an emergency. My husband was a ten-year member of the Canadian Forces Infantry Division and by law, he has to stop and assist if there is an incident threatening the well-being of another person. This rule usually applies to all emergency personnel.

There is a protection law called “The Good Samaritan Act” that legally protects anyone who gives first-aid from any legal repercussions if there are medical errors made. This law protects those who voluntarily help in an emergency without the expectation of a reward. The law will protect the good samaritan as long as the medical mistake is a reasonable medical error. If the case was to go to trial, the jury or judge would determine if the transgression was a plausible mistake to make in that situation and the law will protect them in that case. This law exists in all fifty states in the United States and in Canada’s ten…



Aymes Sarah

Wife, mother, and researcher of a myriad of subjects. I love to write about anything and everything! Writer for The Startup, Better Marketing, & The Ascent👊