Situation: You are at the mall. You see a man grab a child and begin to walk away with her. The child immediately begins to yell and cry, saying things like, “You’re not my daddy. Let me go!”  What would you do? Think about yourself.  For most people this would appear to be a temper tantrum. Again, think about who you are and the morals you choose to stand by. What would you actually do? Would you walk by or would you do something? According to a survey done on Keene State College students, most say that they would do something, or intervene with the situation. An experiment conducted by the TODAY show would suggest otherwise. In the experiment, there was a staged child abduction in which a man was to try and abduct a child (both were knowingly involved). Over the course of three hours, the child abduction was staged repeatedly. Shockingly enough, no one intervened. People continued to walk by. Now think about the  actions  you made today. Did you see something possibly dangerous happening and just choose to walk on by? In the staged experiment most people walked right by. This psychological phenomenon is commonly

Photo Illustration by Tim Smith

Photo Illustration by Tim Smith

referred to as the “bystander effect.” It dictates that when a victim is in trouble, people are less likely to aid the victim in need because the majority is not intervening. In other words, it’s a follower’s phenomenon. We, as humans, have the tendency to conform. There is a pack instinct we have to survive. However, why is this “survival instinct” still an excuse for our actions today? In an interview survey, Keene State College students were given the same scenario above. You are at a mall and you see a child seemingly throwing a fit as a man is grabbing them and pulling them away. Each student was given this scenario and asked to respond as honestly as possible. Most explained that they would have either watched to see what else happened or said that they would continue to walk by. Students declared that it would be hard to know what to do in those situations. For each answer though, only a few said that they would directly intervene with the situation. This is something that shocks a lot of people. The term “safety in numbers” is not a true statement. It is hard to go against the group and what the majority of the group is doing. But isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? During first-year orientation it is mandatory that students go see a production called, “No Zebras, No Excuses.” This production is comprised of stories based off of true sexual assault cases that occurred at Keene State College. This whole production is directly affiliated with the bystander effect. A social phenomenon of how people will stand by and witness crimes occur and do nothing simply because the person next to them is also doing nothing is real. The eeriest part of this whole phenomenon is that it really is true. Think about how many times you have been at a party and there was  a girl next to you. She was clearly drunk and gaining some male attention. What did you do in that situation? For me, I don’t know what I would do. There are so many things that we see each day that we bypass without even thinking about. I agree with many people I have spoken to about situations like these, but I disagree with one thing: to not act. I, along with many others, would like to think that when the time comes I will do something. With all this information in mind now, I still don’t know if I would change my actions. If everyone else is ignoring it, why shouldn’t I? Wouldn’t it be less work? Odds are I never would hear about it either. Odds are I also would never even think about it again. It’s not okay to stand by and watch this occur and then wonder why, when I am in need, that help does not come. But that is unrealistic thinking as well. We all act as part of a whole. We can’t help but do what the others are doing. Then, is this something we can honestly change? Or is it just our nature?

Veronica Reeder can be contacted at

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