Sunday, November 11, 2012

Be Aware to Care

While reading about helping others this week, I came across something in particular that caught my eye. The book states that the first step to helping someone is noticing that something is wrong or unusual. The book also brings up the point that “people who live in big cities and noisy environments may become so used to seeing people lying on sidewalks or hearing screams that they begin to tune them out.” After reading this I realized that this statement is, unfortunately, very true. For most of us, we’ve become all too accustomed to the sight of a homeless person curled up on the streets or the desperate pleads of the needy for small donations and pocket change on the subway. Because of this “blindness” that many city-folk experience, they are then not able to, or choose not to, interpret what they’re seeing as an emergency and, further more, they do not provide help. When in large crowds, people begin to diffuse responsibility and become consumed in, what is known as, the bystander effect. I find this idea of distancing oneself from a situation and letting one’s peers handle it to be very interesting.

In this article, researchers studied the bystander effect and possible ways to eliminate it in social settings. Researchers found that the most important part of decreasing the bystander effect is to increase one’s public self-awareness through the creation of accountability cues. When individuals are singled out from a large crowd, they are more likely to feel responsible for providing help and are, then, more likely to become involved. The use of video cameras is one method which has proven to increase self-awareness, as well as a way to boost or maintain one’s reputation, and in turn, lowers the bystander effect. Someone who knows that he is being watched instantly becomes more aware of how he acts and, when faced with an opportunity to help someone, is more likely to do so.

Going along with this point, I don’t know if any of you are familiar with ABC’s show “What Would You Do?”. The show deals with these same issues of when and why people help other people. The show’s website offers a quiz that I think is both fun and interesting. Check it out here and let me know what you think!

11 comments:

  1. About a month ago I was walking in Long Island City and saw a woman convulsing on the ground, directly outside of a business, bleeding from the mouth. People were walking by her, and there was a construction site across the street with a bunch of construction workers on lunch break. I stopped and called the cops, and when people saw me standing there, talking on the phone next to the woman, they began to come over, so soon there were ten or so guys standing with my by the woman. Once I had stopped and taken action with the situation, other people felt less pressured and therefore more inclined to help (the 911 woman told me to wait there, but I was in a rush so I passed the duty of talking to the cops to the construction workers). I feel like the fact that I'm young and female was also a motivating factor for the construction guys coming over -- they, though really bystanders, were acting under the guise of helping me help her.

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  2. I took the abc quiz and couldn't help but feel very ashamed at my answers. I tried to be as realistic as I could when I was thinking of myself encountering said scenarios, but each time I came up with some kind of excuse that ultimately prevented me from stepping in - maybe I'm in a hurry, it's probably not that big of a deal, I don't want to involve the person I'm with in a potentially dangerous scenario. Whether it was an abusive boyfriend or a case of bad parenting, it kind of hurt me a little on the inside to think that I might be the type of person to just take a seat on the sidelines. My hope is that by having come to this realization now, it will prepare me for future encounters, and make me more inclined to take a step in if I see something wrong.

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  3. I took the quiz and I did choose answers that involved taking some action. However I feel that most of my potential encounters compared to the quiz are more vague and are not as obvious to even even call situation an emergency as fast. That probably has to do with my own life style in not going out much but it usually never hurts to ask if someone needs help even if it is vague. But also I would like to consider the probability of whether or not people would come or help if I initiate the help not so much as how I would try to help. Based on my own build, in a dangerous situation, at best I can call the cops, but I can't take immediate action especially if its just me, the victim, and if there is one or more attackers within the area knowing that the probability of me becoming a victim is also high if I directly step in.

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  4. I think we need to step back and look at this issue from a wider point of view. Our will and character are the ultimate elements that come into play when making a decision but let us not forget that, people are the product of their environment. Yes it might be ones responsibility to help at that moment, but when faced with the decision it is never that easy because of modern urban social dynamic though us differently. Although dens in population, it is seldom the case that a strong community feeling is developed in urban areas and I believe this impacts our decision at that moment.
    Few weeks a go I watched this video from the same show, it has some really interesting moments to be examined relating to our conversation.

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    1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzLZD1gA5us

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  5. One time working at Panera Bread about a 3 years ago and there was an older woman who was in the busy line who was very out of breath. She was holding onto the wall and fainted in exhaustion. The woman she was with appeared to be a family member so she instantly asked one of the employees to call the cops and my manager took care of it which left everyone in the cafe to watch what was happening but everyone seemed willing to jump in if no one was going to take care of the situation. At least I now that I would have if it was handled differently. But that was when I was living in the suburbs of New Jersey and moving to cities like Wilmington, Delaware and Brooklyn, New York I guess I have become a slight bit more used to the franticness of something going on with people in public but I don't think to the point of something like what happened to Kara that I would avoid it and move on.

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  6. It is not easy to imagine how one's self would act in a situation when someone needed immediate help. I think the appearance of a person in need is definitely of importance. Someone is much less likely to help out a seizing crackhead than a well dressed, "normal" looking person. I have two anecdotes which relate to this bystander affect that I have experienced firsthand. One time in Manhattan I saw what appeared to be a dead homeless man passed out in vomit between a parked car and the curb. I saw many look and then quickly look away; someone even took a phone picture. The cops came shortly after, but I certainly didn't call them. Since the person appeared homeless, New Yorkers have learned to tune these people out.
    I was hit by a car last winter riding my bike next to the project buldings right next to Pratt. When I came to, I was lying on the ground and a huge group of people were around me. The cops and ambulance was already on its way. I think that if people see the incident occur, rather than just its aftermath, they will much more likely be sympathetic and call for help.

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  7. I agree with Russell in saying that the appearance of a person affects a person's willingness to help others. I think that this partly relates to what we have learned about association, people feel more comfortable with people that appear to be like them. To me the amount of comfort that I feel towards a situation effects the amount of willingness I feel towards staying in that situation and therefore helping that person. I'm not saying that this is the only factor that affects someone's willingness to be helpful because of appearance. People want to feel that their good deed is going towards something good, which is why people stereotype the people in which they decide to help another person. I also think that gender has a big factor in the amount of help people will provide. Recently I had a flat tire at 1 am in a town I was unfamiliar with, with no way to contact anyone. I was forced to drive to the nearest gas station where no one would help me except a bystander. I truly believe that the man that helped me did so because he saw that no one else would being that everyone else at the gas station stood and watched. The man said that he helped me because he had daughters of his own and felt bad for me. I don't know if he would have helped me if I would have been a male but I think that he would not have been as willing. Society sees a female in distress a lot differently than a male.

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  8. The classic bystander effect is reflection of individual in group. Because the duty has been spread out to all members, people are unwilling to help. However, it is also reasonable that people need to be supervised to make the "right" decision, or to follow the laws. In the experiments, knowing being watched by others increased the possibility of help behaviors. It does not disapprove the bystander effect. In fact, there is no physical appearance of others, but rather online imaginary identities. I don't think this experiment prove that the bystander effect can be reversed by means of cues that raise public self-awareness in social settings. It works in the test, because there is no one to divide the duty with the test subject, and the use of cues increase that self-awareness.

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  9. Putting your own life at risk for a complete stranger takes a lot of courage. Like Seiko mentioned before, if there was a situation involving someone getting mugged or beaten up and I was smaller than the person, I'm not sure how much I could do to help. Being a bystander is terrible, but maybe sometimes it's because of the situation. The fact that you could get hurt by helping is a legitimate reason to not get involved. Of course, you can always call the cops or for help, but at that moment there is nothing you can do. Actually being there to witness the incident would definitely make me feel even more eager to help too. So that whole thing is definitely a big part of what makes someone more wiling to help.

    I think a lot of different variables need to be taken into consideration when it comes to the bystander effect. The way someone looks, what their gender is, their age, personal ideals, where you are, how you're day was and whether or not you would get hurt are all things that can make someone act a certain way, if they act at all. I know these things effect how I act and help me decide whether I should take action.

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  10. It's unfortunate that these are the circumstances we live by. Homeless people around every corner, violence happening often, and now with the hurricane, people coming up and begging for money or food; I at least saw this on Staten Island. But all of this goes unnoticed to our more "important," daily lives. But I guess it's also our sense of urgency. It's hard to notice how much someone is in need when, say, we're late to work, or our morning commute is just so rough. We run past a homeless man, or walk quickly past a man playing an instrument for money, but we're not bad people, nor do we do this on purpose. It's a cold rough world out there, unfortunately...

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