On SAGE Insight: Caring collectives and other forms of bystander helping behavior in violent situations

From Current Sociology

Research on bystanders has mainly considered bystanders as passive. This view is based on the well-known ‘bystander effect,’ suggesting that the presence of other bystanders implies a diffusion of responsibility that inhibits the likelihood of intervention. Recent meta-analytical evidence, however, challenges this view by showing that the bystander effect attenuates, or even reverses, in high-danger, violent emergencies. That is, in situations of violence, additional bystanders do not diffuse the responsivity for helping, but rather provide a welcome support that increases the likelihood of intervention.

The purpose of this study was to explore the diverse ways in which bystanders act and interact in violent emergencies. Data comprised a sample of surveillance camera recordings of violent incidents in urban public places.1 Copenhagen Police Department provided us access to all terminated police cases concerning Copenhagen between 2010 violent assaults from the central police districts of and 2012. This sample covered 933 cases, of which 164 contained video surveillance clips of varying quality and relevance for this study. Video material is a rich data source that allows for a high-resolution behavioral analysis. Authors present the analysis of two situations that illustrate the sequence by which the bystander gatherings crystallize into an interactional caring ritual in the aftermath of the violent conflicts. This interactional aspect of bystander involvement has rarely been examined in the bystander literature, which tends to focus on individual bystander actions and motivations.

Abstract

Social science research has traditionally described bystanders in violent emergencies as being passive. Recent evidence, however, stresses that bystanders typically intervene proactively and successfully in violent, dangerous emergencies. This article examines the multiple ways bystanders act in situations of violence, with the aim of moving beyond the understanding of bystanders as being either passive or active. Based on a qualitative analysis of surveillance camera recordings of urban public assaults, the study maps different types of bystander behaviors as they unfold in real-life violent events. The first part of the analysis is summarized in a typology that covers three types of bystander action: distancing, ambivalence, and involvement. The second part shows that the involvement action also unfolds through coordinated interactions between the bystanders, what the article characterizes as a ‘caring collective.’ This interactional aspect of bystander involvement has rarely been examined in the bystander literature, which tends to focus on individual bystander actions and motivations.

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Article details
Caring collectives and other forms of bystander helping behavior in violent situations
Charlotte Bloch Lasse, Suonperä Liebst, Poul Poder, Jasmin Maria Christiansenm, Marie Bruvik Heinskou, Hans Reitzels Forlag,
Corresponding Author: Lasse Suonperä Liebst
Article first published online: June 4, 2018; Issue published: November 1, 2018
DOI: 10.1177/0011392118776365
From Current Sociology

 

     
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