If you are in a crowd and you hear someone call for help you assume that someone else will deal with it. If you are alone and you hear someone call for help you go and help them. What is that effect called?

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    $\begingroup$ Meh, someone else will answer this question. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't this just Apathy on the part of the person doing nothing? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ Coincidentally, I know that some talked about this in a TEDx-talk: youtube.com/watch?v=gHXc-HlL0t4 It is not a scientific explanation - the talk is rather one of the motivational kind - but it may be a nice start. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg :)) - would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this, though. I sense a kind of boredom (high mehness factor :-) in your comment, but for the common ground troops it's actually an interesting question :) +1 $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ OK sure @Christiaan, you've cajoled me into action by singling me out. :-) $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


It's called the bystander effect:

The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is 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.

It was highlighted by the Murder of Kitty Genovese, which is part of the negative image of New Yorkers as apathetic, and is therefore sometimes also called "Genovese syndrome".

The bystander effect is a sub-type of Diffusion of responsibility.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I wanted the correct term for a discussion at the amatuer orchestra I'm in. there are way more first and second violinists than any other section in the orchestra (e.g. there's one harpist, two bassoonists, and nine second violinists). But last week none of the violinists showed up! I'm guessing that's a 'diffusion of responsibility' issue. $\endgroup$
    – dumbledad
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 22:47

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