What would you do?

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 poAmber_200ster 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!

4 thoughts on “What would you do?

  1. Johnna Nicole Hayward

    Hey Elisa!!

    I found your post really intriguing but it also made me a little nervous…what if I’m one of those people that would be impacted by the “Bystander Effect”? Due to my concern I decided to take a closer look into what I can do to ensure that I am not one of those people who fails to help in a time of need. According to psychology.about.com there are key ways to prevent this effect from influencing you. The main aspects that this website stated were that we need to be “observant”, “skilled and knowledgable”, and “feel good”. By observing the environment around us, knowing what to do in a situation that calls for help, and feeling good about the decisions we make in that moment the outcome will be much more positive and successful. Once all of these aspects are considered though it’s easy to notice that being able to act in all these ways at any given time is extremely difficult and highly unlikely. So maybe once we realize what is truly asked of us in a crisis situation the result of being impacted by the “bystander effect” is inevitable…

  2. Erin Ann Alessandroni

    Elisa, wow! My jaw physically dropped when I read your SHOCKING statistic about every parents worst fear- the number of children abducted in the USA daily. This article reminds me of a popular television show, “What Would You Do?” featured on ABC family. The show uses hidden camera’s to capture people’s reactions to different types of scenarios similar to that of a child being abducted and tests the validity of “the bystander affect” referred to in your blog post. In an episode aired on 8/28/15, a mother breast-fed her infant while simultaneously drinking wine in public. On a website called Drink Aware, it is explained that the level of alcohol in breast milk is similar to that in the mother’s bloodstream and are highest 30 to 60 minutes after drinking. “It takes two hours for a unit of alcohol (a small glass of wine, or half a pint of ordinary-strength beer) to leave a mother’s blood”. This information shows that it would be a bad idea to do what the mother on “What Would You Do?” was doing. However, the results were that less than half of the bystanders actually get involve due to excuses similar to those suggested in your article.

  3. Samantha Elizabeth Schmitt

    This was very interesting, especially with the 23,000 abductions a day. I wonder what qualifies for an abduction and how long the average child is missing. It is really scary to think about. These are more statistics I found: http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts. Personally, I am never a bystander. In situations I am able to safely help in, I always do. My motto is better safe than sorry. With the missing child posters and people not even observing is insane. There was a girl who was kidnapped and hidden for years, and while she was eating in a Denny’s, someone noticed her, called the police, and saved her (I wish I remembered her name for the article about it). Whenever I see posters I always look and read about the missing children. While I know it is a long shot, I would rather be able to see them and help these children rather than know I could have done something to help them but chose to be ignorant instead.

  4. James Joseph Burke

    I found this article not only incredibly interesting but also very eye opening. I would have never realized that there were 23,000 abductions in the United States each and every single day. I also found it a bit disturbing that out of the countless scenes they did in the experiment, only a handful of the crowds reacted to the abduction. The bystander effect is a fascinating concept because everyone would implore others to act in public but when someone is put into the situation their mind is altered. I believe that the only way to counter the bystander effect is through educational tools such as the video shown above. Once people see the absolute necessity of acting quickly in those situations in the appropriate manner, parents will be a little less afraid when their kid leaves the house. I think what West Virginia is doing should be implemented all across the globe. In addition to the new technology mentioned in your article I found a company trying to act on this issue as well. Facebook has teamed up with the National Center of Abducted and Exploited Children to create an immediate amber alert system. Imagine scrolling through your news feed when you see the picture of a local girl in your area lost with the appropriate details you need to help get her back to her family. By accessing the large pool of Facebook users, the National Center for Abducted and Exploited Children can get the details out at lightening speed. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/find-missing-child-facebook-amber-alert-feature/story?id=28173570

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