Milk cartons, light post, post offices, store windows and news channels; all places you can find a missing children’s poster. But does Missing Child posters really work? According to the FBI, in 2014 there were 466,949 NCIC entries for missing children. The Child Find of America reports that an estimated 23,000 children go missing EVERY DAY in the United States alone! If you saw a missing child’s poster would you stop and at least take a look? If you saw that child from the poster, would you help?
A NBC News asked the same questions and set up an experiment in Mamaroneck, N.Y. to help answer some of these questions. Missing posters were printed for an actress named Alyssa and hung around a New York bakery and even inside of the bakery. With a could hidden cameras placed around the bakery, NBC watched as unsuspected people reacted or disregard completely. Some people reacted to the poster, asking the cashier about it several times, or noticing the girl as she walking into the store with a male man (also a paid actor). Even though some of the bystanders noticed, most did nothing to stop the abductor and some even tried to justify their actions by saying “What if it wasn’t really him” or “I was too scared to get involved”. But a majority of the people ignored the posters and even ignored the girl entirely. This scenario was repeated 16 times and throughout the day only three people called the police. Heres another example of bystanders disregarding their surroundings, even when a child is in danger.
So why is it that we ignore things that are right in our face and not get involve? Well it may be because of the Bystander Effect.
The bystander effect occurs you avoid intervening in an emergency situation because a crowd is present. Bibb Latané and John Darley, two social psychologist, made the concept come to light in 1964 after the Kitty Genovese murder in New York City. They found that the amount of people in a room correlates with the amount of time it takes the person to respond; no one wants to take responsibility. We hope for someone else to report something rather than ourself so when there’s more people around we tend to react slower with hope of another person reacting quicker. Another reason is the when others fail to react, we believe that reaction is therefore unnecessary. Lastly, we fail to intervene because during a crisis we give the benefit of the doubt. Without conformation we convince our self that it isn’t happening.
It’s time to change our way of thinking and prevent The Bystander Effect. “Some psychologists suggest that simply being aware of this tendency is perhaps the greatest way to break the cycle” (psychology.about.com). Unlike the bystanders in the bakery, use your judgement and pursue it. When you encounter an emergency or situation that could be dangerous please get involved by CALLING THE POLICE. 911 is waiting for your call. You could save a life!