In an effort to combat issues of diversity in the workplace, schools, government, and various other environments, prevention programs known as Bystander Effect Training are being implemented (Scully & Rowe, 2009, p. 1). The Bystander Effect Training is meant to compensate for the diffusion of responsibility that people feel while in the presence of others, i.e. the bystander effect. The bystander effect is another name for the theory of diffusion of responsibility; they both present that when situations occur where there are multiple people present, each person tends to feel that since there are others, someone else will likely step up and do what is necessary, thus instigating a perceived lessening of the burden on that particular individual, and that person then doesn’t feel as inclined to do anything about the situation at hand (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005, p. 333). This is where the Bystander Effect Training comes into play; the Bystander Effect Training teaches people to take responsibility in situations such as those, to stand up and do something when appropriate, even when there are others around that could also take action. The Bystander Effect Training teaches people how to rely on themselves, instead of others, to be morally responsible and take action (i.e. speak up for sexual harassment, refute acts of discrimination, report safety concerns, etc.).
Programs like the Bystander Effect Training work by training people to encourage positive behaviors through helping those around them to produce more positive behaviors, while also commending those who follow socially acceptable behaviors and actions. For instance, a manager acknowledging and rewarding an employee for a well delivered presentation on methods to improve workplace sexism issues (putting together a program to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace). Through the employees work towards addressomg sexual harassment and sexual stereotypes in the workplace, they not only improve the workplace atmosphere for others, but they, as well as the commendation of their work, set a shining example of appropriate and morally inspirational behavior for their peers. Thus, one of the Bystander Effect Training’s goals is to encourage people to help others and support other’s good choices.
The other major aspect of Bystander Effect Training is the dissuasion of negative instances of behavior. The Bystander Effect Training encourages people to speak up about those actions or people who do not follow the expectations; i.e. people that make discriminatory or sexist remarks or actions, display unsafe or illegal behavior, and/or act in an unprofessional or offensive manner (Scully & Rowe, 2009, p. 2). For example, in a situation where one coworker makes a sexist comment to another coworker, while the third-person coworker, bystander, voices that the comment is inappropriate and continues to speak to the insulted coworker in a professional manner; i.e. speaking up for what is right and demonstrating proper behavior.
As an example, here are two Bystander Effect Training Programs currently in place in academia, Arizona’s Stepup and Indiana’s Bystander Intervention. Stepup was put together by the University of Arizona in an effort to improve personal responsibility for moral action and fortitude for their students, athletics, violence prevention centers, residence halls and Greek life (University of Arizona, 2010, p. 1). Arizona’s Stepup breaks down the teaching process into a five step decision making process, while also training individuals in helping skills, warning signs, what to do and resources that can help them get it done. Stepup also utilizes what they term an S.E.E. model; safe, early, effective (p. 1).
Then there is Indiana’s Campus program. Indiana utilized Bystander Prevention as part of their Sexual Assault Primary Prevention Project, through which students are taught how to increase awareness and identify warning signs of sexual assault. The campus’s Bystander Intervention also teaches subjects how to step in and make a difference in a sexual assault situation; both directly and indirectly. (Purdue University, 2014, p. 1)
Overall, in an effort to influence change in diversity issues, all of these programs utilize the same methods behind the Bystander Effect Training, teaching individuals to standup for what is right and motivate others to do the same, not to let or assume others will shoulder the responsibility for them.
Purdue University (2014). Indiana Campus Sexual Assault Primary Prevention Project. Retrieved February 17, 2014, from http://www.purdue.edu/incsapp/bystanderintervention/index.shtml
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.
Termin, L. M., Kohs , S. C., Chamberlain, M. B., Anderson, M., & Henry, B. (2012). The Vocabulary Test as a Measure of Intelligence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 9(8), 452-456.
University of Arizona (2010). Step UP! A Prosocial Behavior / Bystander Intervention Program for Students. Retrieved February 17, 2014, from http://www.stepupprogram.org/