The Bystander Effect and Social Control Behavior: The Effect of the Presence of Others on Peoples Reactions to Norm Violations

Chekroun, P., & Brauer, M. (2002). The bystander effect and social control behavior: The effect of the presence of others on people's reactions to norm violations. European Journal of Social Psychology, 32(6), 853-866. doi:10.1002/ejsp.126.

Three field studies were conducted to explore the influence of the number of bystander-observers on the likelihood of social control. We predicted that the presence of others would inhibit people's tendency to communicate their disapproval to the deviant but only if personal implication was low. In the first study, we measured participants' perceptions of two fictive situations, one in which a deviant draws graffiti in an elevator of a shopping center and one in which a deviant litters in a small neighborhood park by throwing a plastic bottle in the bushes. As expected, participants considered both behaviors to be equally counter normative but felt personally more implicated by the littering behavior in the park. In Studies 2 and 3, the two situations were enacted with confederates of the experimenter. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found evidence for a bystander effect in the low personal implication situation (graffiti in the elevator) but not in the high personal implication situation (littering in park). These results make clear that perceived personal implication moderates the extent to which people are inhibited by the presence of others when they decide whether they should exert social control or not.

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