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Christina070's avatar

Do you think that governments ever experience the 'bystander effect'?

Asked by Christina070 (106 points ) January 7th, 2013

I was researching about the bystander effect, but I was wondering if this also applies to governments or organizations? That the involvement of other governments/organizations leads them to not feel as much pressure to take action?

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8 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I’m sure it does. But that’s where the US’ self appointed role as world’s policeman can make a difference. The US feels it is responsible for leading the rest of the world, so it can’t be a bystander. I think other nations do not necessarily take on that role, and may stand around waiting for another nation (like the US) to take charge.

zenvelo's avatar

Sure. The EPA doesn’t do much more on clean air because California Air Quality Board does so much, including setting emissions standards. Same with the VA for vets that qualify for Medicare.

I think it is pretty common between state and local governments and the Feds.

Ron_C's avatar

I wish the “bystander effect” existed in the U.S. It seems, however, that we never met any brown people that we wouldn’t blow up.

The U.S., led by the CIA has engaged in so many intrigues, overthrows, and disappearances that would make the KGB envious. Frankly, I’m tired of paying those spooks for upsetting governments and murdering innocent bystanders.

bolwerk's avatar

Diffusion of responsibility affects individuals in a social setting, so of course it affects individuals employed by the government. In fact, it’s quite possible that government employment is even attractive to cowards.

Another phenomenon that may be related is normalcy bias. People actually tend to stay overly calm in crises, even when action would suit them. It’s why the Hollywood drama of people acting like irrational lunatics during disasters is actually quite flawed.

diavolobella's avatar

@bolwerk What you said about normalcy bias is really interesting. I’ve never thought about people staying overly calm in a crisis when action would be more beneficial to them although thinking back, I can see where I have experienced that reaction myself (though fortunately, in my case it turned out to be the best course of action). Do you think that could be a delayed “fight or flight” instinct in some people? That some pause longer or freeze up before their reaction kicks in?

bolwerk's avatar

@diavolobella: I think “fight or flight” may be an overplayed instinct in humans to begin with. As your own experience suggestions, evolutionary, stay still/hide is a good reaction sometimes. Opossums famously take it to the extreme and secrete nasty pheromones from their anuses to create the illusion that they’re not only dead, but decaying.

Instincts are powerful and often right, of course, but they can also be very wrong. Think about all the people who stayed along the coast during the Sandy, perhaps because past experience told them that such a storm is normal. And there has been research about people just sitting on their hands in fires and crashes, when getting up and fleeing could have saved them.

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