Be Direct To Cut Through The Bystander Effect

When an emergency arises in a large crowd, the bystander effect dictates that your probability of getting help decreases despite plenty of onlookers. The solution? Pick a specific person from the crowd and explicitly command him or her to dial 000 instead of just yelling for someone to call for help.

Photo by vonderauvisuals.

Wikipedia has more on the bystander effect:

The probability of help has often appeared to be inversely related to the number of bystanders; in other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. The mere presence of other bystanders greatly decreases intervention. In general, this is believed to happen because as the number of bystanders increases, any given bystander is less likely to notice the situation, interpret the incident as a problem, and less likely to assume responsibility for taking action

You've probably heard of this idea before, and you may also have heard similar advice for getting help. One reddit user helpfully suggested picking out a specific characteristic when referring to someone ("you there in the red shirt!") to avoid any confusion.

LPT: If ever in a large crowd and faced with having to yell "somebody call 911", don't, and instead explicitly point to someone and say "YOU, call 911". [Reddit]


    Very true. I've been an industrial first aider for many years. About 5 years ago I was involved peripherally in a fairly bad car crash involving 4 vehicles. One car's driver was trapped. 10 or so people got out of their cars and stared at the scene, some literally with their mouths open.

    From my training I knew not to assume that any had called for help. My wife said "don't call 000 I'm sure someone has already done it". Nope - my call was the first (only?) one to help. I then ensured the trapped driver got some water while we waited for the SES and Ambos.

    If you can help, do it. 000 calls are free and they dno't mind multiple calls on the same emergency. If you know first aid, apply it. Tell, don't ask, bystanders for assistance. People in that situation will basically do whatever reasonable thing you ask - they just don't know WHAT to do.

    Email one person to get something done. Email 10 people to get
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