In this week’s lesson we read about the bystander effect and the factors that inhibit people to help in emergency situations (Latane & Nida, 1981). I feel like we could tie this week’s lesson in with last week’s lesson on applied social psychology in education because school bullying has become an emergency situation in this day and age. In my blog last week I discussed the situation of my son being beat up at recess. I mentioned how there were three teachers present, not to mention the three different 5th grade classes that were outside for recess together, and not one single person noticed or stopped the fight or tried to intervene in anyway.
The other students present during the situation at recess, being 5th graders (10-11years old), I could understand that they would be unaware of the bystander effect or the factors that inhibit their willingness to help. As a matter of fact, I know that the kid who was beating up my son had friends nearby that witnessed the fight and when asked about it said that they thought my son and their friend was just playing tag. Of course they said this in defense of their friend. My son’s friends were not present and did not witness the fight; therefore my son had no one defending him and his side of the story. However, the teachers that were present on the other hand are a different story; you would think that somewhere in their educational journey to becoming a teacher, or even as an adult, they would have heard of the bystander effect. When I contacted the school about the incident the first thing I experienced from them was diffusion of responsibility. Immediately they put it all on my son saying that it is his responsibility to report the incident. His homeroom teacher, which was one of the ones “monitoring” recess during the incident, tried diffusion of responsibility by saying that she couldn’t see everything that was going on at every moment, implying that someone else should have, or might have, seen it happening. She also tried saying that she never noticed the very obvious black eye my son had by the end of the day, did she purposefully not look at him? This would be exhibiting Milgram’s second way of psychological retreating by prioritizing what we pay attention to as to avoid lower priority things, such as avoiding looking at my son’s face knowing he got hit but not wanting to have to deal with the situation (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).
Either way, I feel one possible intervention strategy to help reduce bullying could be to start incorporating lessons on the bystander effect and the factors that inhibit people to help in emergency situations in elementary school. I feel this would bring about more awareness and action at a younger age that could potentially start nipping bullying in the butt. I also feel this would be a good way to engage teachers as well to help intervene in bullying situations instead of just waiting for the child to report it (which we know rarely happens due to the fear of retaliation). What are your thoughts on this intervention? Do you feel it would be feasible? Obviously the intervention program would be modified to be geared more toward elementary aged children and bullying situations more so than like using the example of Kitty being murdered.
Latané, B., & Nida, S. (1981). Ten years of research on group size and helping. Psychological Bulletin, 89(2), 308-324. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.89.2.308
Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A. & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology (2nd ed.): Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA. SAGE Publications, Inc.