Monday, November 22, 2010

Psychological Studies Played Out in Real Life

In the field of psychology, there is a social phenomena sometimes referred to as the "bystander effect". This is the phenomena where people's actions - particularly their likeliness to help another person in distress - is inversely proportional to the number of other people present. At its most basic, the more people there are around when something goes wrong, the less likely someone is to help. A certain paralysis develops in large-groups. Each person present first thinks "someone else will help", and, sometimes, when no one steps up to help, it becomes "there must be a reason no one is helping - so, I won't either."

I got to witness this, first-hand, this past Saturday afternoon while attending the Penn State vs. Indiana University football game held at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. My wife and I were attending the game with a group of people. We were all seated up in row 9 in section 404 of the stadium (pretty much at the endzone line at the "home" end of the field). At one point, early in the first quarter, some guy came tottering, drunkenly, down the stairs to head to the section-exit. At some point, whether due to either simply tripping or losing his balance or due to having passed out due to extreme inebriation, the man fell.

Now, the stairs in this part of the stadium are fairly steep. So, when he fell, he tumbled quickly down about five seating-rows' worth of stairs. This made about ten, hard, rough concrete steps he fell down. Worse, at the bottom of his tumble, he pretty my landed on the right side of his face. As he lay there motionless, many onlookers sat about, looking aghast, but otherwise doing nothing. Even the people immediately adjacent to where he came to a stop did nothing but watch. I couldn't believe what I was seeing: no one was rushing off to find section attendants to render aid.

Realizing that no one was going for assistance, I bolted down the adjacent set of stairs and sought out assistance. I found a pair of PG County Police-auxiliaries standing out on the deck outside the section and directed them to the scene of the incident. I was the only person to seek them out. Even as we approached where the incident had occurred, they weren't sure what I was blathering about, as no one was paying particular attention to the situation. They did get to the man and helped him up as he came to.

Just boggles my mind that, during what seemed like an eternity, no one did anything. No one sought help. No one sought to render aid. No one really paid much in the way of attention beyond gawking. Whut. The. Fuck?

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